Money in Politics

The issue we are focusing on for October 2015 is Money in Politics. This is part of a nationwide study to address First Amendment rights of individuals, corporations and the media in the context of the recent decision by the Supreme Court in Citizens United. A number of articles and resources have been prepared by the League of Women Voters of the United States to help understand the complex issues involved in the financing of our elections. For ease of use, links to those resources are presented here:

Articles:

  • Introduction and Overview provides a comprehensive overview of the existing LWV position on Campaign Finance, the proposed update, League action on Campaign Finance, the purpose of a campaign finance system and why Money in Politics matters to the League of Women Voters.
  • The Debate: Can Government Regulate Money in Politics looks at three of the ideological underpinnings of the debate about whether government can restrict money in politics.
  • Corruption and Rationales for Regulating Campaign Finance addresses the various approaches to defining corruption. It then outlines types or categories of corruption that have been offered in Court decisions and analyzed in legal scholarship.
  • Shifts in Supreme Court Opinion about Money in Politics provides an overview of the shifts in Supreme Court opinions about money in politics and the impact that has had on campaign finance laws and regulation.
  • The Role of the Supreme Court in Interpreting the Constitution examines the role of the Supreme Court in interpreting the Constitution and the history of judicial supremacy as limited by changing the Court and Constitutional Amendment.
  • The First Amendment provides an overview of the 1st amendment as it pertains to campaign finance.
  • Independent Expenditures describes the history of independent expenditures and the evolution of regulations addressing them. It also examines recent trends in this type of spending and why it matters.
  • Action in the States highlights components of effective campaign finance reforms at the state and local level since the Citizens United decision in 2010. It covers disclosure; coordination; small donor funded elections; Pay-to-Play; and, oversight and enforcement.

Consensus Questions

Books and Suggested Readings:

  • The New Soft Money by Daniel P. Tokaji & Renata E. B. Strause Professor Daniel P. Tokaji & Renata E. B. Strause have authored an e-book entitled The New Soft Money and with their permission, we have linked to a copy. The entire book is well worth reading. Sections of Chapter 1 including The New Rules of the Game, pp.17-23 and The Players, pp.23-27 cover the issue of coordination and are of particular interest to Leagues as we examine the current system of campaign finance reform.
  • Suggested Readings on Money in Politics This is a list of suggested reading material intended to help League members get started in learning about the complex topic of Money in Politics. This is an initial list designed to orient League members and the general citizenry to the issues. Other suggestions will be added to the list in the future.

We encourage you do further reading and consider sharing this information with other groups you belong to. There are even materials to do your own Money and Politics presentations at community meetings. In addition, we can refer you to one of the volunteers who have been studying and following the issues for the last several years for additional assistance. That group has prepared additional materials that can be accessed here:

LWVWA Citizens United v FEC Washington Impact Toolkit

Many of these focus on the issues as they have affected elections and spending in Washington.