Thursday, March 29, 2012

Corruption and Campaign Finance Law

This article titled "The Concept of Corruption in Campaign Finance Law" by Thomas Burke discusses the concept of corruption in relation to US campaign finance law. Burke argues that corruption will lose meaning if it is applied too broadly to campaign finance, for example by associating corruption with electoral finance inequality. The FDA acknowledges Burke's point, but at the same time, severe campaign finance inequality present in the American and Russian federal electoral systems, for instance, may stem from systematic corruption.

Introduction to "The Concept of Corruption in Campaign Finance Law":

"In Buckley vs. Valeo[2], the Supreme Court put the concept of corruption at the center of campaign finance law. The Court held that only society's interest in preventing "corruption and the appearance of corruption" outweighed the limits on free expression created by limits on campaign contributions and expenditures. Other goals, such as equalizing the influence of citizens over elections, limiting the influence of money in electoral politics, or creating more competitive elections, were rejected as insufficiently compelling to justify regulating political speech. The Court's focus on corruption has been reiterated in a series of cases following Buckley which have decided whether local laws and various provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act violate the First Amendment.[3] Barring a major shift in this area of law, corruption is the criterion by which the constitutionality of further reforms in campaign finance regulation will be measured.

The Court's emphasis on "corruption and the appearance of corruption" has stimulated criticism on several fronts. From the left, the Court is criticized for not giving credence to other interests in campaign finance regulation.[4] From the right comes the criticism that the Court has been inconsistent in its application of the corruption standard.[5] Others find the problem in the term "corruption" itself. Frank Sorauf argues that while the phrase "has a ring that most Americans will like . . .its apparent clarity is deceptive and its origin is at best clouded."[6] Yet whatever its flaws, politicians, activists, judges and even picky academics are constantly drawn to employing the concept of corruption in their claims about the campaign finance system. I hope in this article to give some sense of both the possibilities and the limits of understanding campaign finance as an issue of corruption.

The first part of the article briefly considers the concept of corruption and the ways in which academic commentators have explored it. The second part analyzes how "corruption" has been employed in a series of Supreme Court cases beginning with Buckley. Finally the third part defends what I call the "monetary influence" standard of corruption as the most appropriate one to use in controversies over campaign finance. This defense turns out to be a rather complex enterprise; it requires a turn back to the foundations of representative democracy. Any adequate standard of corruption, I argue, must be grounded in a convincing theory of representation."

The Concept of Corruption in Campaign Finance Law

Types of Corruption

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