This is a follow-up to a first posting on this issue, now up on Just Security.

The text is also reproduced below:

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As a potential crime under the campaign finance laws, the Trump campaign collusion with the Russians is well documented. As I contended in a recent essay, there is ample evidence in plain sight. The President applauded a foreign government for its interference in the election and suggested that he would be happy to see more of the same. Asked to disavow it, he declined to do so. Both the candidate and his campaign made extensive use of the material the Russians supplied via WikiLeaks on the campaign trail and in the presidential debates. The Russians had a willing partner in their design to influence the election and a clear signal that their intervention had value. There is more than enough in the public record to warrant inquiry into the Trump campaign’s “substantial assistance” to a foreign government in violation of the campaign finance laws.

Some analysts believe that this is evidence is insufficient. They insist that more is needed in the form of direct communication between the campaign and the foreign government. But they are mistakenly discounting the significance of the evidence in plain sight, and looking in the wrong direction for more proof, if in fact more is needed.

I wrote the following piece for Just Security on the campaign finance issues raised by what is known about Russian activities in the 2016 election. It also appears below.

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Commentary on Russian intervention in the 2016 elections has included one confidently expressed and perhaps growing view: that there may be a scandal there, but no conceivable crime. It is claimed that the Trump campaign could wink and nod at Russian hacking, and derive the full benefit, but that without considerably more evidence of direct involvement, there is no role for criminal law enforcement. The matter is then left to Congress to consider whether new laws are needed, and the public, of course, will render its judgment in opinion polls and in elections still to come.

This view is flawed. It fails to consider the potential campaign finance violations, as suggested by the facts so far known, under existing law. These violations are criminally enforceable.

The Allure of Reform and A Modest Proposal

September 20, 2016
posted by Bob Bauer

Matt Grossman and David A Hopkins have pronounced many decades of liberal reform to be a failure. In a new book, they argue that the 1970s reform program did not lead to the success of liberal policies but may have been primarily advantageous to "ideological Republicans." For a party that is "a coalition of social groups, each with pragmatic policy concerns," the Democrats wound up undermining the transactional politics among various interests that would produce their preferred policy outcomes. Making matters worse was a shift of voter sentiment against government-driven solutions. The Republicans, happy to oblige the popular sentiment by blocking legislation, fared better than Democrats actually interested in passing it. Grossman and Hopkins conclude that in the future, Democrats "should assess whether each potential change is likely to benefit the Democratic coalition or the more ideological Republicans."

The problem always is the hazard of predicting the partisan or policy impact of any reform measure. To the extent that Grossman and Hopkins are urging Democrats to guess, they are necessarily allowing for the fairly large possibility that they will guess wrong. And even the ways in which they may be wrong are not anticipated all that reliably. In other words, both the benefits and the costs--the shape of success and the look of failure--will be very hard to judge. The mistakes made can be costly.

None of this would matter if those promoting reform could satisfy themselves that it satisfied other measures of success. For example, do those reforms enhance public confidence in the political process, or lessen the risk of corruption in government? Not so much, it seems, which is not to say that things would not be worse on this score without the reforms. But if it is true that reforms have contributed little to the success of the progressive policy agenda, the absence of other consolations, like a government that enjoys the public’s confidence, only compounds the sense of failure and dissatisfaction.

The Grossman/Hopkins argument tends to strengthen the case for targeted modest reforms that don't rest on ambitious expectations about policy or partisan effects. Rather than each party trying to game which reforms will serve their particular interests, they might collaborate on purging the current regulatory system of its inanities, inconsistencies and inefficiencies.