Derek Reinbold  //  3/16/17  //  Topic Update

The resignation of an FEC commissioner may have given Trump an opportunity to reshape the campaign finance landscape

FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel stepped down, publishing a 25-page exit memo describing an agency rife with dysfunction.

o   Richard Hasen (NYT) noted that Trump might create a majority for active deregulation by offering a libertarian or independent nominee to replace Ravel.

o   In response, at More Soft Money Hard Law, Bob Bauer argued that such a shift would be unlikely, and would ultimately depend on Mitch McConnell’s support.

o   In an interview with Politico, Ann Ravel said it was likely that Don McGahn, current White House counsel and former Republican FEC commissioner, would play a role in shaping future FEC appointments.

o   Current GOP-appointed Commissioner Lee Goodman, in a video interview with The Hill, said Trump could revamp the FEC’s agenda.

The Supreme Court may review the soft money ban imposed by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) (Bloomberg BNA).

o   The Supreme Court previously upheld this provision in McConnell v. FEC.

o   The Republican Party of Louisiana posed a First Amendment challenge to the soft money ban in Republican Party of Louisiana v. FEC (FEC Case Summary), but a three-judge court unanimously ruled against them in November.

o   The plaintiffs are appealing directly to the Supreme Court under an expedited review mechanism in the BCRA—they filed a jurisdictional statement in January.

o   Democracy 21, Public Citizen, and the Campaign Legal Center filed an amicus brief defending the constitutionality of contribution limits (statement here).

o   Rick Hasen (CNN) worries that if Judge Neil Gorsuch is confirmed, the Court would use this case to kill off what was left of McCain-Feingold; Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, writing for the Brennan Center, noted that Gorsuch may help move the standard of review in campaign finance cases towards strict scrutiny.  Bob Bauer argues that the time may be ripe to revisit Buckley v. Valeo as the starting point for constitutional analysis of campaign finance restrictions

Filing a complaint with the FEC, the Campaign Legal Center and Common Cause allege that the Trump campaign illegally accepted campaign contributions after Election Day and falsely reported those contributions.

o   Larry Noble of the Campaign Legal Center argued that this move may be an attempt “to illegally double what a contributor can give for the 2020 primaries.”

Updates | The Week of January 22, 2018

1/28/18  //  Daily Update

The Republican Party has used a combination of dark money, voter ID laws, and political gerrymandering to tip the political scales in its favor, wrote Ari Berman at Rolling Stone. Several of President Trump's financial backers are profiting off Trump campaign entities, raising campaign finance concerns in the process.

Updates | The Week of December 18, 2017

12/24/17  //  Daily Update

The FEC Commissioner released a statement about a current lawsuit that seeks to enjoin the FEC from revealing the identities of individuals who helped hide the source of a $1.7 million political contribution.

Update | The Week of November 27, 2017

12/4/17  //  Daily Update

The D.C. Circuit rejected a challenge to separate federal campaign contribution limits in primary and general elections.

Jeffrey Stein

Columbia Law School