Every once in a while, David Brooks writes a column in The New York Times that makes one just cringe. That was the case with his “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” treatment last week of the impact of Citizens United on our politics. By defining the impact narrowly—does either party gain from the Supreme Court ruling and the new Wild West of campaign financing?—and by cherry-picking the research on campaign finance, Brooks comes up with a benign conclusion: Citizens United will actually reduce the influence of money in elections, and, I quote, “The upshot is that we should all relax about campaign spending.” Without mentioning his good friend’s name, E.J. Dionne destroyed that case in his own Washington Post column. But a broader critique is necessary. First, Citizens United—and its progeny, SpeechNow and McCutcheon—are not really about whether Republicans get a leg up on election outcomes. They are about a new regime of campaign spending that dramatically enhances corruption in politics and government by forcing lawmakers to spend more and more of their precious time making fundraising calls, raising money for their own campaigns and their parties, and getting insurance against a last-minute blitz of “independent” spending that trashes them when they have no time to raise money to defend themselves. It also gives added traction to extreme groups threatening lawmakers with primary devastation unless they toe the ideological line.
Is the Federal Election Commission a dysfunctional agency deaf to voters fed up with loophole-riddled campaign finance rules? Or is it a newly revived organization making unprecedented moves to invite a wide-ranging public debate over its regulations? The answer may be both. In a fit of productivity on Oct. 9, the FEC managed to outrage its critics, thrill political party leaders, send election lawyers scrambling and break out once again into public bickering. It was an abrupt departure from the months and even years of partisan deadlock that have rendered the FEC incapable of settling even the most routine enforcement disputes. Advocates of political money restrictions have long decried the FEC’s paralysis, but they are even more irate now that the agency has finally sprung into action. Most controversial was the FEC’s move to essentially double the maximum that donors may contribute to the Republican and Democratic National Committees. The Campaign Legal Center’s Larry Noble called it a “disgraceful and activist decision” at odds with federal law.
Last week, before they convened again at oral argument to mark the start of another term, the justices of the United States Supreme Court selected for review a case that will help further define the murky relationship between state judges and those who seek to shape justice before them. In Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar, the Court will decide whether a state judicial canon that requires judicial candidates to seek campaign contributions through a committee, rather than directly from donors, violates that candidate’s first amendment free-speech rights. The case is interesting in its own right. The electioneering judgment employed by this particular judicial candidate was so disconcerting it’s probably a good thing for the law (not to mention the litigants of Florida) that ultimately she lost the election for which she was campaigning. But the timing of the case is interesting, too. It comes to the Court in a season of unprecedented spending on (mid-term) judicial campaigns all across the country—money unleashed upon campaigns, including judicial elections, because of the Court’s Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions.
With apologies to the cast of Cabaret, dark money makes the political world go round. Confusing rules and a regulatory void in campaign finance have unleashed a tsunami of cash from anonymous donors that is expected to have unprecedented influence over the midterm elections in November. As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission judgment in 2010, individuals—and big corporations—received a carte blanche to make unlimited anonymous financial donations to “nondisclosing” organizations, increasingly nonprofit groups whose primary mission is defined as “social welfare.” There are some guidelines: Such groups, categorized as 501(c)(4), can devote no more than half of their funds to political spending if they want to retain their nondisclosing tax-exempt status. The trouble is, who is holding them to account? Since the Internal Revenue Service got hammered for oversight activities that were at best overzealous, at worst partisan, many of these groups can essentially do whatever they want, unchallenged.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture on a constitutional amendment meant to reverse two recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign spending. Republicans are likely to vote against the amendment on a procedural vote that is expected to occur Thursday. Earlier this week, Republicans supported advancing the measure because they said it deserved debate — that move also tied up the Senate from considering anything else for nearly three days. Democrats have had less time to hold other political votes during the two-week session before adjourning for the midterm elections. Reid has said he also wants to hold votes on Democrats’ political priorities, such as equal pay for women and refinancing student loan rates.
The Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday to debate a proposed constitutional amendment that would let Congress and the states put caps on political spending. But that’s probably the high-water mark for the amendment. When Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) called the vote tally, it looked like a big win for advocates of the constitutional amendment: 79 ayes, 18 nays. That’s a dozen votes more than the 67-vote majority needed to actually move the amendment out of the Senate and over to the House. But it was a strategic move as 25 of the Senate’s 45 Republicans voted aye. It allows the GOP to prolong the debate and spend less time on other measures that Democrats want to vote on before the midterm elections – measures such as equal pay for women and college affordability. Democrats pretty much ignored the stalling tactic and insisted this is an important vote. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said, “There are times when action is required to defend our great democracy against those who would see it converted into one more rigged game where the rich and the powerful always win. This is the time to amend the Constitution.” But setting the political gamesmanship aside, one question lingers. When pollsters ask Americans about the political money system, overwhelming percentages basically say they hate it. So why doesn’t Congress do something?
When Republican Representative Cory Gardner of Colorado announced in March that he would run for the U.S. Senate, he knew he could count on backing from national Republican groups, including so-called super PACs. But he wasn’t allowed to talk to them directly. Federal election law prohibits campaigns from having contact with the super PACs and advocacy organizations that have come to dominate political spending since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. Those rules were intended to put a wall between candidates, whose fundraising is constrained by federal limits, and special interest groups allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money promoting candidates and issues. In practice, campaigns have found ways to talk to super PACs while staying on the right side of the law. Gardner’s race illustrates how the system works. Within weeks of his declaring his Senate run, Americans for Prosperity, backed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, told the Washington Post it would spend $970,000 on three weeks of television, radio, and online ads attacking incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Udall. That news was a signal that Gardner, who was unopposed in the primary, could hang back and focus on raising money—even as Democratic groups began running their own ads attacking him.
The 2010 Supreme Court decision that helped usher in a new era of political spending gave Republicans a measurable advantage on Election Day, according to a new study. The advantage isn’t large, but it is statistically significant: The researchers found the ruling, in Citizens United v. FEC, was associated with a six percentage-point increase in the likelihood that a Republican candidate would win a state legislative race. And in six of the most affected states — Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee — the probability that a Republican would be elected to a state legislative seat increased by 10 percentage points or more. In five other states — Colorado, Iowa, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming — Republican candidates were seven percentage points more likely to win.
Citizens United filed a lawsuit against Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler in federal court in Denver Thursday, the first step in a legal fight that could rewrite the ways states handle election disclosures. The Virginia-based conservative group is finishing a movie called “Rocky Mountain Heist,” about those who have influenced Colorado’s political swing to the left over the past decade, calling out advocacy groups and politicians, likely including Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Mark Udall, who are in tough races this fall. In June, Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert ruled that the group would need to disclose the movie’s financiers under state campaign laws. The organization contended it deserved the same free-speech protections as traditional media and liberal documentary filmmaker Michael Moore.
Members of the Republican National Committee gathering in Memphis, Tennessee, for their spring meeting are set to join a lawsuit seeking to strike down campaign finance limits and free the GOP to spend unlimited money on get-out-the-vote efforts. Republicans have long argued that “soft money” spending limits imposed on political parties by the Federal Election Commission in the aftermath of the 2002 McCain-Feingold law have punished the RNC and state political parties while letting pro-Democrat unions spend unlimited money to organize voters. The lawsuit specifically will ask the courts to allow national and state parties to form super PACs that can raise and spend unlimited amounts on election efforts, something the FEC has prohibited. “We think this will put the final nail in the coffin of the McCain-Feingold law,” Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere said in an interview.
Editorials: McCutcheon Restores Power to Congressional Campaigns | Tim Peckinpaugh and Steve Roberts/Roll Call Opinion
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court struck down an aggregate cap on individual contributions to federal candidates, parties and political committees over a two-year election cycle in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. Certainly, this is an important holding, but this is not Citizens United II. In fact, in as much as Citizens United increased spending opportunities with outside groups, it’s just the opposite. This decision will have a major impact in national political giving by restoring congressional campaigns themselves — as well as the national parties that support them — to renewed importance by which donors of all political persuasions (and particularly wealthy donors) provide support to a slate of preferred candidates. That shift will, in turn, result in a larger portion of political giving by way of transparent, fully disclosed contributions to federal campaign committees and the Members of Congress they support. Essentially finding that the presence of any cap was arbitrary, and building on its previous free speech analysis in Citizens United v. FEC, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. illustrated the underlying faulty logic of the biennial aggregate limit in operation: “If there is no corruption concern in giving nine candidates up to $5,200 each, it is difficult to understand how a tenth candidate can be regarded as corruptible if given $1,801, and all others corruptible if given a dime.”
In the food world, change from the ground up is all well and good. We desperately need cooks, gardeners, farmers and teachers. But we also need legislation. The recently passed and almost uniformly abysmal Farm Bill is a lesson in how legislation affects those of us working to change the chaotic so-called food “system.” Pittances were tossed at supporters of local and organic food, fortunes’ worth of agribusiness subsidies were maintained, and much-needed support for the country’s least well-off was slashed. That’s a Republican-led Congress at work, but when it comes to supporting Big Ag and Big Food, most of the Democratic representatives from states where farm income matters most are not much better: While the majority of Big Ag’s financial support for candidates goes to Republicans, Democrats are close behind. For big-time change on a national scale, we need representatives who put the needs of a sustainable food system and all that goes with it ahead of those of the chemical and processed food manufacturers who are currently running the show.
The still fresh McCutcheon v FEC Supreme Court decision, like the January 2010 Citizens United, has again set off the rage of activists and reformers—who call it nothing less than the privatization of government or the end of the republic! Indeed, removing aggregate contribution limits does for individual donors what Citizens United did for corporations years earlier, make it easier to influence elections. Yet, the apocalyptic cries, however comprehensible, are largely misdirected anger and misguided strategy. Since Citizens United, there have been fervent movements to “get money out of politics” from Movement to Amend (to overrule the case by Constitutional Amendment) to Lawrence Lessig’s Rootstrikers petition (to enact tough campaign finance laws and promote a government-funded option). The idea, remove large campaign donations and see saner policies and better government follow, seems plausible enough. But let’s parse the obvious. Citizens United did not cause the predominance of money in American politics; it is but a symptom of it.
Campaign finance reformers are worried about the future. They contend that two Supreme Court rulings — the McCutcheon decision in March and the 2010 Citizens United decision — will magnify inequality in U.S. politics. In both cases, the court majority relaxed constraints on how money can be spent on or donated to political campaigns. By allowing more private money to flow to campaigns, the critics maintain, the court has allowed the rich an unfair advantage in shaping political outcomes and made “one dollar, one vote” (in one formulation) the measure of our corrupted democracy. This argument misses the mark for at least four reasons. First, the money spent on federal campaigns is not excessive; quite the contrary. Second, elections — and politics in general — are inherently unequal for many reasons other than money. Third, incumbency is by far the greatest source of this inequality, and the limits on contributions — and thus on most candidates’ spending — that reformers want to retain would only worsen it. Finally, the claim that generous donors and big independent spenders in effect buy federal elections and policies is contradicted by the empirical evidence.
Many analysts have written a lot about the decision, with a natural focus on its direct implications for campaigns. Those are huge and important. But they are, I believe, overshadowed by the impact of the decision on corruption in America. Here, Rick Hasen and Dahlia Lithwick, two of the best legal analysts in the country, have weighed in, and I want to add my weight. Some have suggested that McCutcheon was not a terribly consequential decision—that it did not really end individual-contribution limits, that it was a minor adjustment post-Citizens United. Others have said that it may have a silver lining: more money to parties, more of the money disclosed. I disagree on both counts. Justice Stephen Breyer’s penetrating dissent to the decision pointed out the many methods that campaigns, parties, and their lawyers would use to launder huge contributions in ways that would make a mockery of individual limits. Chief Justice John Roberts pooh-poohed them as fanciful. And, of course, they started to emerge the day after the decision. As for disclosure, the huge amounts that will now flow in through political parties will be channeled through joint committees, state and local party committees, and others in complex ways that will make real disclosure immensely difficult, if not impossible.
Chief Justice John Roberts’ first sentence of his majority opinion in McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission, striking down important limits on campaign contributions, declares “There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.” A look at the Roberts Court’s record, however, shows that this may not be its guiding principle. Through a series of rulings, the court’s conservative majority’s rulings have instead made it easier for big-money donors to influence elections — while making it harder for many Americans to use the only political influence they have: their vote. The court has done handsprings to accommodate claims that laws burdening donors’ ability to spend money in elections are unconstitutional. In Citizens United, for example, the court decided to schedule re-argument during a special court session — something very rare in the Supreme Court — to consider whether to strike down campaign finance restrictions on corporate expenditures as unconstitutional. (Which the court ultimately did.). The plaintiff in that case hadn’t even pressed such a radical argument, until the court explicitly invited it to do so.
Voting Blogs: A Novel Proposal from Heather Gerken: Plus One More, Also from Yale | More Soft Money Hard Law
In an interesting Washington Post article, Professor Heather Gerken has proposed with co-authors a new strategy to advance a core reform objective, the enhancement of transparency, as other options seemingly dwindle after CItizens United andMcCutcheon. Heather is well known and well-respected for just such an insistence on thinking beyond the well-traveled, now largely exhausted policy choices. A good example is the Democracy Index, which she constructed to “harness politics to fix politics,” by generating political incentives for the improvement of performance on election administration through the publication of public rankings. What she and her co-authors now suggest is that 501(c)(4)s and other organizations not publicly reporting their finances be required to disclose that they do not disclose. Public opinion would do the rest: politics would be harnessed to fix politics. Suspicious that the advertisers won’t say who is paying for their messages, the audience would be mistrustful, the ads would have less value, and donors would have reason to doubt that their money is well spent. Money might then flow to messages financed by disclosing organizations. This mode of attack, Gerken et. al believe, might also help with the “whack-a-mole” problem: that regulators and lawmakers must chase ever-changing organizational forms, from “527” to 501(c) organizations. This new regulatory program would target the ads, irrespective of the type of sponsor.
There is more than one way to demolish a wall, physical or legal. Go at it with a bulldozer, or weaken its foundations and await the collapse. When it comes to undermining the structure of modern campaign finance law, Chief Justice John Roberts has done it both ways. The 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case, which Roberts joined, was a judicial bulldozer, willy-nilly toppling precedents that had restricted corporate spending on elections. But the chief justice prefers a cannier jurisprudence, less in-your-face but perhaps just as destructive. Wednesday’s ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, invalidating limits on the overall amount of donations an individual can give to federal candidates and committees, illustrated that insidiously effective approach.
Editorials: The subtle awfulness of the McCutcheon v. FEC campaign finance decision: The John Roberts two-step | Richard Hasen/Slate
Back when Justice Elena Kagan was Solicitor General Kagan, she argued to the Supreme Court in favor of the ban on corporate spending in the Citizens United case. She offered the justices all kinds of ways for the court to decide that case in favor of the nonprofit corporation, short of overturning the ban itself. When questioned by Chief Justice John Roberts about whether she was asking for the government to lose in a certain way, Kagan responded: “If you are asking me, Mr. Chief Justice, as to whether the government has a preference as to the way in which it loses, if it has to lose, the answer is yes.” Today, once again, the government lost a campaign finance case, McCutcheon v. FEC. And while it could have lost in somewhat worse ways, this opinion is pretty awful, portending a raft of new First Amendment attacks on soft money and even on the basic rules limiting how much individuals can give candidates for office. As I explained back in September in Slate, at issue in McCutcheon was “aggregate” campaign finance limits in federal elections. Federal law currently caps at $48,600 thetotal amount an individual can give to all federal candidates for office during any one two-year election cycle. It also limits to $74,600 the total amount an individual can give to political committees that make contributions to candidates and sets a total cap of $123,200 for contributions in the two-year cycle. This law was challenged by someone who wanted to give a series of $1,776 contributions to more congressional candidates than he was allowed, and the Republican National Committee, which wanted to accept more than it was allowed to take under this legal regime.
Not only did the Supreme Court deliver a major blow Wednesday to campaign finance restrictions, it may have laid the groundwork to dismantle what’s left of campaign contribution limits, legal experts say. The controlling opinion in McCutcheon v. FEC, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, eliminated “aggregate” limits on a person’s contribution to candidates and political committees in an election cycle. It left untouched restrictions on how much money someone can give to a single candidate or committee — but Roberts’ reasoning signals that those may be in trouble, too. “By requiring that any campaign finance laws be deemed necessary to prevent quid pro quo corruption, akin to bribery, many more campaign laws could fall in the near future, including those base $2,600 limits,” wrote Rick Hasen, an election law expert at UC Irvine. “While Roberts goes out of his way to say that those base limits were not challenged today, he does not do anything to affirm that those limits are safe.”
National: Supreme Court Strikes Down Aggregate Limits on Federal Campaign Contributions | New York Times
The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a major campaign finance decision, striking down limits on federal campaign contributions for the first time. The ruling, issued near the start of a campaign season, will change and most likely increase the role money plays in American politics. The decision, by a 5-to-4 vote along ideological lines, was a sequel of sorts to Citizens United, the 2010 decision that struck down limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and unions. But that ruling did nothing to disturb the other main form of campaign finance regulation: caps on direct contributions to candidates and political parties. Wednesday’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, No. 12-536, addressed that second kind of regulation.
A split Supreme Court Wednesday struck down limits on the total amount of money an individual may spend on political candidates as a violation of free speech rights, a decision sure to increase the role of money in political campaigns. The 5 to 4 decision sparked a sharp dissent from liberal justices, who said the decision reflects a wrong-headed hostility to campaign finance laws that the court’s conservatives showed in Citizens United v. FEC , which allowed corporate spending on elections. “If Citizens United opened a door,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer said in reading his dissent from the bench, “today’s decision we fear will open a floodgate.” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the opinion striking down the aggregate limits of what an individual may contribute to candidates and political committees. The decision did not affect the limit an individual may contribute to a specific candidate, currently $2,600. But Roberts said an individual should be able to contribute that much to as many candidates as he chooses, which was not allowed by the donation cap.
Editorials: Justice Roberts Hearts Billionaires: Justice Roberts doesn’t believe in money’s power to corrupt, so there’s that | Dahlia Lithwick/Slate
Five years ago, when the Supreme Court handed down the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, polls showed that the American public—or at least a mere 80 percent of them—disapproved. Now of course public approval hardly matters when it comes to interpreting the First Amendment, but given that one of the important issues in the case was the empirical question of whether corporate free speech rights increased the chance of corruption or the appearance of corruption in electoral politics, the court might care at least a bit about what the public thinks constitutes corruption. Or why the public believed Citizens United opened the floodgates to future corruption. Or why it is that campaign finance reform once seemed to be a good idea with respect to fighting corruption in the first instance. Now, in a kind of ever-worsening judicial Groundhog Day of election reform, the Supreme Court has, with its decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, swept away concerns over “aggregate” campaign finance limits to candidates and party committees in federal elections, finding in the words of Chief Justice John Roberts—who wrote the plurality opinion for the court’s five conservatives—that the “aggregate limits do not further the permissible governmental interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption or its appearance.” In other words, since bajillionaires should be able to give capped amounts to several candidates, they should be allowed to give capped amounts to many, many, many candidates, without raising the specter of corruption.
The US Supreme Court on Wednesday took another big bite out of current campaign finance law, striking down a nearly 40-year-old measure capping the total amount of money individuals could donate to political campaigns and parties. Hanging over today’s court ruling in McCutcheon v FEC is the spectre of the 2010 Citizens United v FEC decision, which allowed corporations and labour unions to make unlimited donations to independent political action committees (super PACs) and fund issue advocacy advertising. This contributed to a general mood on the left and among campaign finance advocates of resigned outrage. “The Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling on Wednesday striking down aggregate limits on political campaign contributions is no less destructive for being so widely predicted,” writes Jesse Wegman in the New York Times. “This latest outburst of judicial activism in the struggle to render campaign finance laws completely toothless is merely accelerating a historical process that is coming to seem almost inevitable,” he writes.
“Super PAC” is officially legit. Making good on a promise, language authority Merriam-Webster recently published an entry for “super PAC” in its online unabridged dictionary — a subscription-only product. Inclusion of “super PAC” in its free online dictionary is forthcoming, Associate Editor Kory Stamper told the Center for Public Integrity. The Merriam-Webster entry reads:
Super PAC, noun: a type of political action committee that is legally permitted to raise and spend larger amounts of money than the amounts allowed for a conventional PAC; specifically: an independent PAC that can accept unlimited contributions from individuals and organizations (such as corporations and labor unions) and spend unlimited amounts in support of a candidate but that cannot directly contribute money to or work directly in concert with the candidate it is supporting.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled on a case involving an Alabama county that wanted to see key sections of the Voting Rights Act eliminated. Shelby County mostly got its wish. Southern states no longer have to have their voting rules vetted by the federal government. Now, an electrical engineer and Republican activist–Shaun McCutcheon, also from Alabama–has a case before the high court that threatens to upend the current status quo on campaign finance. Due any day now, the court’s ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission could overturn a nearly 40-year-old law that limits what individuals give to campaigns and what they can give in total. Politicians and activists are watching closely because in 2010 the Roberts court overturned a century’s worth of law with its Citizens United ruling that allowed unlimited contributions and contributions by corporations to certain kinds of political committees.
Editorials: How ‘the next Citizens United’ could bring more corruption — but less gridlock | Rick Hasen/The Washington Post
An opinion could come as early as this coming week in the Supreme Court case being called “the next Citizens United,” and groups concerned about the influence of money in American politics are bracing themselves for the result. Public Citizen has planned more than 100 events across the country in anticipation of a McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission ruling that further dismantles our campaign finance laws and strikes down a key federal campaign contribution limit. I, too, am troubled by the prospect of an awful decision that would clear the way for more corruption. But I find some solace in the thought that such a ruling could have a surprising positive side effect: reducing gridlock in Washington. At issue in the McCutcheon case is the constitutionality of caps on an individual’s total donations to federal candidates, parties and certain political committees in a two-year election cycle. Alabama Republican Shaun McCutcheon wanted to give $1,776 to each of 28 candidates in the 2012 cycle, but that would have exceeded the $48,600 aggregate limit on direct contributions to candidates. He and the Republican National Committee are challenging that limit, along with the $123,200 cap on total donations.
When the Supreme Court deregulated independent political spending four years ago, the court reasoned that unrestricted money posed no corruption risk because a firewall separates candidates from their outside benefactors. As Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission: “By definition, an independent expenditure is political speech presented to the electorate that is not in coordination with a candidate.” Such expenditures, the court concluded, “including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” Four years after that ruling, the supposed barrier between candidates and unrestricted super PACs is flimsier than ever. As midterm elections approach, complaints are rolling into the FEC from both parties about super PACs that share vendors, fundraisers and video footage with the politicians they support.
Four years after the Supreme Court deregulated independent campaign spending in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the high court is poised to yet again turn American elections upside down. The court is expected to rule any day now on McCutcheon v. FEC, another potentially landmark constitutional challenge that could shake up campaign financing as dramatically as Citizens United did in 2010. While no one can predict how the court will rule, oral arguments in October suggest that conservatives in the majority remain as eager as ever to dismantle money limits. At issue in McCutcheon is the constitutionality of existing overall limits on how much a contributor may give to candidates and political parties in a single election cycle. Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon, who brought the challenge, argues that the $123,200 cap on total contributions per cycle violates his First Amendment rights.
Lawyer and lobbyist Steve Bresnen is asking Texas’ campaign finance regulators to shine a light on secret campaign spending in state elections. Reinvigorating the debate over dark money spending in the Lone Star State, Bresnen filed a petition for rulemaking with the Texas Ethics Commission on Tuesday asking the state panel to ensure “all contributors of money used to influence elections would be disclosed.” (read full the petition here). “The purpose of my proposal is to eliminate ‘dark money’ from Texas elections by dragging it into the sunlight,” Bresnen wrote to acting Executive Director Natalia Luna Ashley. “Secret money influencing elections — the life blood of self governance — is intolerable as a matter of law and is against the public interest. The Commission should exercise its authority to do something about it.”