A sense is building in media quarters that the Wisconsin “issue advocacy” investigation, still in limbo in the courts, might be a pivotal moment in the campaign finance reform debate. It is a spicy story: a criminal investigation with allegations about conspiracies and mention of emails to Karl Rove. And it could turn out that state law was violated. At this point there is no way of knowing. Clearer is the central issue arising out of the case: whether the First Amendment protects “a candidate’s promotion and support of issues advanced by an issue advocacy group” where “the speech may benefit his or her campaign because the position taken on the issues coincides with his or her own.”  O’Keefe v. Schmitz, No. 14–C–139, 2014  WL 1795139 (E.D. Wis. 2014).
Professor Pamela Karlan would have the Supreme Court be more attentive to the impact of its decisions on the current pathologies of American politics. She points out how cases like the one the Court will decide shortly here on recess appointments bear directly on the capacity of the government to function. See Nat'l Labor Relations Bd. v. Canning, No. 12-1281 (S. Ct. docketed Apr. 25, 2013). Then, toward the end of her piece, Karlan ties in campaign finance reform. The Court's decisions on political spending can either “lower the temperature” of contemporary politics or further inflame it. Karlan sees the court as performing poorly on this score in the past, as in Citizens United, and as poised to make the same mistake in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission.