Entry Points for a Conversation about Campaign Finance

October 27, 2014
posted by Bob Bauer

A recent posting here reviewed possible paths for campaign finance regulation: a determined attack on loopholes, a biding for time until scandal possibly arrives and allows for legislative reform and expanded opportunity for regulation, or an openness to rethinking the issue?

Which of these is chosen will be influenced by which aspect of campaign finance is thought to be really pressing: how much money is spent (volume); how it is spent (influence), and how much is publicly known about it (transparency). Of course, in any critique of campaign finance, from the left or right, there is a little bit of everything thrown in, but one of these three considerations is usually emphasized over the others.

Thinking about the Paths for Campaign Finance Regulation

October 23, 2014
posted by Bob Bauer
Arguments about the prospects for campaign finance regulation now fall broadly into three categories: (1) close up loopholes; patch up the rulebook; (2) wait for scandal to break the logjam; and  (3) rethink the issues.  In recent weeks, we've had clear restatements of these alternatives.

Crawford and the Politics of Voter ID

October 20, 2014
posted by Bob Bauer
A recent posting here suggested that the constitutional analysis of ID statutes is foundering on the issue of partisan motivation—the politics of ID. The centrality of this motivation is inescapable. it is impressing itself on a prominent jurist like Richard Posner, once dismissive of claims against ID statutes, and it is supported by the evidence considered by political scientists (see here and here). Yet the jurisprudence developed around ID has fared poorly in showing how political motivation can be incorporated into a constitutional test.

Voter ID Facts and Motivation: Easterbrook v. Posner

October 16, 2014
posted by Bob Bauer
Judges Easterbrook and Posner square off in their opinions on the Wisconsin voter ID statute and their exchange comes down to two questions: the differences in the design and effects of ID statutes, and the significance of partisan motivation. Frank V. Walker, Nos. 14-2058 & 14-2059 (7th Cir., Oct. 6, 2014). Easterbrook is casual, if not careless, in discussing the differences, and in his treatment more generally of facts. Posner insists on their importance. Easterbrook sweeps aside the question of political motivation, and Posner does not.

This is the position I submitted to the New York Times’ “Room for Debate” Forum, on the question of the state of campaign finance regulation and possible directions for its future:


Forty years after the passage of the federal campaign finance laws, we have considerable experience with how they work, but the debate about them has become tired and repetitive. No one is happy with the situation as it now stands: not those who worry about corruption, not those troubled by the First Amendment cost of extensive regulation, and not those who yearn to bolster public confidence in the integrity of their government. There is everywhere evidence that reconsideration and rebuilding are in order.