tv Discussion Focuses on Campaign Finance Reform and Millennials CSPAN December 29, 2016 6:18pm-7:04pm EST
free c-span radio app. the new york university school of law had a day-long forum. in this 45-men panel, experts focused on campaign finance reform. the panel we have here, and i'll make very brief introductions. those of hue heard a prior panel know that a lot of that was about party financing. we'll have a little conversation about that but we're going on broaden it out so we're talking about campaign finance in a number of other respects. you have of course the brochure with you and you know we had a very distinguished panel. we have samuel issacharoff, a very noted constitutional and election lawyer who has written widely in the field. and i recently had the pleasure
of hearing him deliver a discussion on party finance, particularly the struggle between parties and outside groups at the university of houston. on sam's celeste david donnelly. he has been in both money and politics issues for 20 years and he's done extremely interesting work with considerable interest. in the state and local. and we'll hear about that and that's an important and oftentimes omitted part of the story. on his celeste rick hasen. anybody who knows anything about election law, who practices it, who writes about it, follows in it large measure through writing of rick hasen. his 2016 election cycle output on this in newspapers across the country. "the new york times" slate.
i can't begin to name them. his scholarship, his well known blog, all of that has him marked as the most highly thought. and he is a professor at the university of california at irvine law school. so with this group, i would like the begin by broadening the subject out. so vice president earlier today opened up the conversation by saying briefly and then not continuing that he thought there was too much money in politics and he thought it was corrupting. and earlier there were some discussion on the prior panel that the discussion about corruption or not corruption was at best mixed and certainly some of our panelists thought nonexistent. let me begin with you and then i'll move down the road here. are we at the end of the review
that money is corrupting in politics. that it is so corrupting that we need on fight for significant congressional controls if we can get a exhort will allow it. >> thank you for your kind words. great to be with you here. >> i'm not the person on the reform side who thinks that corruption is a major problem in our politics. >> am i hearing feedback? >> so my concern is one about rising inequality that comes from those who have the greatest wealth transforming their economic power into political power. so i think the question that is posed by the latest election is
whether the -- should i switch to your mike? >> i just pushed a button and the light went on. >> all right. let's see. >> try this. >> can you hear me? okay. that sounds a little better. i think the question whether or not we're seeing a, with the latest campaign, a transformation of our campaign finance system, a bifurcation of our campaign finance system, or it was a blip. i think we don't know yet where someone on the last panel said i think it was ben ginsburg who said it is hard to figure out what's going on. what we had with the trump campaign was a celebrity driven campaign run through social media that went around the traditional institutions and the traditional mediation by the press and others.
and it is a question of whether future campaigns will be run this way. whether we'll have a kanye campaign in 2020, whether we'll have a series of celebrities, the oprah campaign, and this will be the new model. if that's the case, we might say money didn't matter for trump. to start off with, he did put $66 million of his own money into the campaign. and in the end, he did not only court the super pac donors. he also, when he started his transition, he literally gave a seat at the table to rebecca mercer as one of the big super pac donors. so it is very hard to know whether this was a transfo transformative campaign or whether we'll see a bifurcation.
what i mean is it may be the rules for the president. there is so much free media given to trump. whether for president, money won't matter in the same way. but for all the other offices, money will still matter. if you look at the senate races. you look at governors' races. wealthy donors are having ever more influence. >> i've never thought the corruption is the main issue. i think the real problem is one of economic inequality and i think it is something we'll see. whether social media and these new celebrity campaigns change the equation or shift the money into social media, digital advertising and we'll see the same patterns. i think it is hard to say. >> i guess i would argue that
what you just described, that growth and inequality both in the economic sphere and political sphere a version of corruption. that the process is corrupted so some people have more of a voice. so when you think about rebecca mercer, that's not -- when we think about a corruptive process, beth some people having more access than others. that it flows to those at the top and not the rest of us. i think that's a version of corruption. i think we need to move more, dealing with participation stoffel answer isn't about getting the money out or stopping wealthy from having all the power or having influence. it is about increasing the influence of the rest of us and changing the organizing principle around these times of
questions around money politics. to encourage more people to get involved through incentives, other ways of participation. and that will be the antidote on a policy matter. i think that inequality is a version because of the policy outcomes. to the other point, yeah. absolutely. it is a paradox that in a race we know the best, money matters the least. we all know at this time best. there's tremendous exposure for presidential candidates. the reason why mitch mcconnell was raising all the money this last week, they knew they needed to pull that money fourth the very tight senate races around the country. and even further down country, money matters a tremendous
amount. it has a tremendous impact. >> sam? okay. >> i'm partially in agreement and partially i want to push away. i think the reform community got distracted by the narrow window on the corruption rationale and has tried on package everything through corruption argument. and i think one not need fall into the trap of saying money doesn't matter. it is hard to get off the ground as a candidate without an initial expenditure of funds. yet at the same time, one can also think that maybe the problem is not the money that is there but where the money is that is the significant issue.
so if you look at the narratives, on one side the problem is citizens united. the problem is the wealthy control. whoever gets most money from corporation there's dominate. and one of the candidates pledged as a seal of approval on any supreme court nominee a commitment to overturn citizens united. it didn't resonate as a political matter but it dropped out all together after the election. because it turned out the better funded presidential candidate lost as during the primary season. the theme is where the money is. i think we have unfortunately institutionalized three critical events over the last 20 years.
one of which was mentioned this morning. the pair of supreme court hearings. the two colorado decisions in the 1990s in which the court basically held that candidates are at risk of being krumtd by the parties and there are you had to put up a very hard wall, there by diminishing the influence of the parties. the second two were more on the ground events. in the summer of 2004 when john kerry ran out of money and it turned out you could run a perfectly adequate presidential campaign without the candidate and without the party through private funds. in that case it was george soros running it through moveon. then in 2008, president obama not only made the decision to forego public funding but showed that you could get a significant amount of money, harnessing the technology for direct appeals to
voters to raise funds that bypassed the party organization altogether. and that was the lesson internallized by the outside challengers of donald trump and bernie sanders, how they would get the seed money. sanders basically did the same thing without individual fortune. so the three combined, the wall between the candidate and the party. the ability of outside funds to basically reply date party activity. and the need for the breakdown, all have pushed in the direction of whatever money there is being held further and further from the candidates and the parties. as was discussed this morning. >> there is a lot there.
>> this is going to tie into something david has worked in for much of his career. >> you have been an advocate of couchers. both overall limits but also vouchers. some form of public financing to bring additional voices in and to compensate for whatever restrictions are placed on the supply of private money. where in your view is the political will or the basis for the argument what are increasingly viewed as scarce public resources could be argued to be allocated to the support of political campaigns? >> is your question more about public finance in general?
or about vouchers in particular? >> generally, and then you can go specifically to vouchers. >> we heard ben ginsburg move into food stamps for politicians mode. i don't think it is happening on the federal level. if anything is happening on the federal level, it will be a loosening on restrictions. especially party fundraising. i think those will be the next to go. we may get into it later. and then perhaps a new justice will work on it. on the federal level, not only do i not have any hope for public financing, i think things are get much worse. but on the state and local level, i think the potential for public financing is greater. and the potential for vouchers
is greater. we know that because we're starting to see jurisdictions adopt that. and we'll have to see how they may out in practice. and whether or not another mat locations. >> it empowers voters by giving voters the chance to decide, i've got $100 to donate for a political activity. do i want to give to it this candidate or this interest group or political party? now one concern about vouchers, is whether it would be further fragmenting and create a situation where if you're worried about populism on the left and right, as some are, this will exacerbate it. i think one way of dealing with
that. we could say some or all of the voucher money, you could give it to the green party or the democrats or the republicans. then you're not diminishing parties. i am pretty optimistic. not on the limit side. because i think the supreme court will move further against limits. but on the leveling up side through the use of vouchers. especially those states and localities. i think if it is present to voters, it is much more appealing. >> whenever reform got put,
should i use this? when reform got put before voters in policies or resolutions, there were 12 million votes that were cast. four of the five actual statutes won overwhelmingly. there were resolutions in wisconsin, to overturn citizens united in 16 different counties. even paul ryan's county won 86-14 to overturn it. california statewide. when people get opportunity to vote for reform, they go for it. four of the five reforms have been implemented and they're working well. maine went back to the battle to upgrade the system from a previous law that was passed in
1996. and we saw a dramatic uptick in the candidates participating in the system even though there are still independent expenditures and campaigns were being waged through party expenditures. i like the idea of a lot more donations from political parties. for parties to have resources to support their candidates. and we could drop that coordination line between parties and candidates. if we allow it to be dropped but it is coming from large contributions, we risk the problems we see in a variety of places.
>> so you have two people on your left, who thought providing financial aid, public support to the political parties, would be a good thing. but you also have evidence that more and more people are disaffiliating from the two parties. in the millennial cohort there is less. why then is a public policy matter should money be allocated to parties if parties don't attract? in fact, detract a declining living? >> i think the question is in what forms is it given to the parties. if you look at western europe where the political parties had a mass base, either in the trade unions or the small businesses. as soon as the parties start to
lose their mass base, they increasingly tried to use their parliamentary benefits to give a welfare system. that seems to be a bad system. a system that locks in the parties just at the point that they've lost mass support. so i like the idea of providing the university of the channels. but to make them able to engage and to get support. so if you long , that's chasing yesterday's technology with today's methods. leave aside whether it is the exact right way to do it. you look at countries like brazil or argentina or mexico,
and they -- or spain. they apportion tv time, depending upon your success in your last elections. and then there's a lottery system for additional slots so new parties, new entries can come in so it is not just a freeze-out. i like the idea of funding being tied to small donations. that's a way of rewarding or incentivizing. where do you want the money to go? that's a separate question from how much? if there is nothing from the parties there is no evidence that the small donation or this kind of private funding is conducive to a healthier brand of politics. there is every reason to believe
that candidates needing to raise funds will pitch to the extremes. that's what you pay attention to. it is more likely to arouse passion and to get donations than a well composed moderate center of the road type appeal. so unless you have a strategy that in my view, includes the mediating institutions, i have no confidence whatsoever that any of these mechanisms will improve the quality of either governance or the political engagement. >> let me ask you, you said the campaign finance reform may be predicated on promoting an appropriate vision of equality. sam is suggesting that there is an additional potential driving force behind policy or a shaping influence on policy. and that would be to try on arrive at a healthier political
system. a system on which dialogue is official. are you comfortable that we can entrust the legislature to make rules to be healthier. >> first, i trust the voters to make those judgments about those tradeoffs. i'm not a big believer that we'll be able to use campaign finance reform. we're at a point where polarization is such that we can't use the lever of campaign fence. i think the biggest impediment to that kind of problem is our system of divided government and what led to this grid lock. in fact, looking forward to the next congress, where you have a republican president and soon a, what i would call a republican
supreme court, one of the advantages of such a system is that voters will be better able to decide whether or not they like the outputt that comes from a republican government. and then reject if it they don't. they can't reject the supreme court with you they can reject the others. if he we want a system where the government is responsive, a system of more unified government where voters can look at the policies and reject or accept them and keep them in office is one that will help our politics. in terms of getting policy output that people can junior whether they like it or not. >> he was saying, he trust the voters. the voters' embrace of these
initiatives. what were the decisive arguments? i assume it was, and the second question is, we tend to think of initiatives of voter choice. what the turnout in the initiatives were. >> sure. i may not be able to answer the second question completely. it varies from state to state. one of the themes sktability. people want an accountable government. they want a leg towislature to more like themselves. there's a lot of talk about whether or not to use the corruption language for winning these policies. and the jury is out on that. sometime it is a hot button
number. it doesn't leave people in a hopeful place there is anything to do about itself on there is a lot of debate about that. it tests off the charts in terms of polling. in terms of turnout, we had very strong turnout in seattle in 2015 when we did a ballot measure there. the turnout was a little lower in maine. an offyear election. lower than we participated. the initiatives that won, south dakota passed a voucher system by 52-48 margin. washington state fell a little short of winning. there were 12 million votes in an election where there is a
pretty strong anti-establishment message. we think this is an important lesson that people will vote for dramatic policies and changes in the political make-up. >> i can't believe berkeley passed that. >> they rejected it ten years ago. >> fair enough. fair enough. >> you raised this by small donations. the notion that somehow democratized campaign finance through the internet and small donations can mean democracy that is perhaps less healthy than we would like it to be. but the question is how do we monitor for that? i'm thinking for example of one measure in mccain-finegold, that was to stand by your ad
requirement. i'm barack obama and i approve this message. it was supposed to be candidates having a second thoughts about negative advertising that they had to personally embrace. that doesn't seem to have changed much the general tenor of political advertising so even if we adopted it, what confidence do that tailoring the rules to be objective could be successful? >> here i would like to disagree on the effect of the campaign finance laws. >> i don't think we can expect a change in campaign finance laws will change what works in the public domain. if tweets work, people will tweet. if you have 140 characters, you will put your biting killer line about the negative of the other because that's all you can really get across in those
states. >> i think the cup had a i have the effect, the growing ability tories funds, it does have an impact on our politics. in two ways. first, the parties are weak cher means that their coordination function in governance is diminished. so our governmental institutions are unable to deliver public goods the way they were when they could cut deals. so one of the bizarre interesting proposals that's in front of us right now is bringing back ear marks. i used to think this was the heist corruption. private money to each congressional representative to deliver to his or her district. it turns out that gets them in the game of needing to cooperation a little more with cutting deals. and it may be a small price to pay for more effective
governing. if you diminish the money being the fuel for the centralizing, mediating functions of the parties. then money will reinforce what we have and probably push to the margins. it doesn't matter where it comes from. where it is the big donor or the small donors, who are likely to be mobilized along the same catch phrases and more ideologically rigid positions or single issue positions. >> so i would like to direct this back. i don i don't want the civilized discourse. be angry. slavery is wrong! oh, yes, i think it would be terrible to keep them that bondage. what kind of crap is that? fight them on this.
but do it through institutions and not through show boats. >> i should mention the vice president thought we should maybe not hate the other side. >> i've been around you too long. >> just a note. the supreme court. let's talk about the supreme court. so you're not optimistic about what the next thing will be for jurisprudenc jurisprudence. how would you reform late that? if you had a court open to it some if it was listening, what would you say to that court would be the basis for inequality rationale that didn't permit congress in the name of inequality to basically
promulgate the most wide ranging rules they could? >> yeah. it is a perfect academic question. there's no 28 court not when justice scalia's replacement comes on because then the court would be 5-4, but one of the liberals leaves the court in the next few years and is replaced, then i think things could move further. we've been calling for the demise of buckley's going to die, we've been saying this if for 40 years and it's still standing. the question is going to be whether cases coming up like the soft money case that will be before the supreme court, to possibly take within the next few months, will provide the avenue for a nail in the coffin, but in an alternative w0r8d, which is what you asked me about, then ill say that the
accepting an interest that could justify some campaign finance limits is no different than accept corruption as a reason to impose campaign finance limits and if you require that then i think that is the limiting principle, so i would not think that limits alone would be institutional without some kind of voucher system or other way, multiple voices and people can get their points across. >> if you have questions, there are people stationed on the side and they have little cards. you can write them out and send them on in. let me stay in the alternative
universe for just a second, there are concerns about our eququality of voice. sufficient to -- policies that would subsidize some voices or incumber others. what would the supreme court would this past institutional muster. alternative universe. thoughts? >> i think we can -- all voices. when you can about this alternative universe, it's actually not that far away even though it's seattle, in this country. and so you have candidates like lorena gonzalez, who on january 2nd, will begin collecting $25 vouchers from people who will be mailed the vouchers, the city of seattle. running for office. these small donations.
that's not diminish iing, that'a making sure that everyone has a chance to be heard. when we think about that in an alternative universe in the future of campaign finance reform law, it looks a lot different than this panel because the it's much more diverse, reflective of the rest of the country. and that's what's exciting about the possibility. how that stands in front of the courts is an incredibly important question. i think my colleagues and i and to my right are going to be much better suited because they're experts on constitutionality of this this. if we're not moving in that direction then we're missing the opportunity to participate in this problem. >> i think these programs work reasonably well at the local level as seed money.
there is no evidence they scale, there is no evidence of a public commitment to the kind of funding necessary to run a serious national campaign for the leadership of the central government of our country. and so, it's well and good to experiment at the local level. that's exactly why we have this concept of the laboratories of democracy. that's as it should be. but if you're talking about the big show, it's just not going to happen. we had a public finance system for president of the united states until bob bauer broke it and it didn't work. it didn't have enough money. you couldn't run a campaign. even when the federal election campaign act was established was to set the amount ott two third of what george mcgovern spent in 1972 in what was the most disastrous presidential campaign of all time, so many people who
run for president, actually want to win and they don't want to reproduce two-thirds of the successes of mcgovern, which means just boston and its suburbs of that sort. it's just not wii that our politics has been organized, so ma my view, where this has led as in the arizona case that went to the supreme court is the recognition there's not enough public funding for this, so you couple the public funding with an attempt to dampen down other sources of funds and that's what's been constitutionally problematic and would take a number of votes on the support to get that to be approved. the idea that you can silence speech in the name of supporting other speech. constitutionally as a dock trinal matter, that's where he had the biggest foundation.
>>. >> you're fine. did you want to add anything? okay, next question is that one of the panelists this morning, david keating, there's no evidence that contribution li t limits increase trust in government. do you have a reaction to that comment from someone steeped in campaign finance and reform? >> i think the trusted question, i think the public doesn't pay enough attention to campaign finance to have a sense of exactly how things work. but they believe that everything is corrupt. and i think it was after mcca mcca mccane finegold perception went up. there's some fluidity there.
in terms of no corruption if i could give $10 o million directly to a candidate, the influence i would have would be much, much greater than the kind of influence someone who doesn't have that kind of money to give. we might call that corruption. there's no question that it creates a system where those with the greatest wealth have the most ability to influence not who's elected, but what public policies are favored. i think that's a problem whether we call it corruption or something else. >> you have to compare reality to reality, so the question is not whether if you give $10 million to a candidate, that's
going to get your phone call answered. the question is, is it worthwhile to give the $10 million to the candidate instead of going through the facade of giving it to a superpac named after that, which is the way it's handled right now. so, whether it's more o less corruptioning, it's really hard, i go back and forth on this because if you give $10 million to the candidate directly and it is transparent. if it is transparent, there's an accountability whether you launder it through an llc and it goes into the superpac and there's no identification or it goes into a 501c 6, there's no indication of the individual backing of the money and no apparent accountability of the candidate for it, we're probably in the worst of all worldings right now, so, yes, if everybody had the same amount of money to give, that's one thipg, but that's not the world we live in now and i thought that the
question, the comment this morning was really direct with maybe it's time to liberalize the money that's going to be actual players in the system. >> this is the last question for this panel. somewhat of a curveball. and i ask it obl because i got a handful of questions. it's the electoral college. i encourage if you wish, to take the law school pass rather than answer, but the question is that in keeping with the themes what do you think about professor's argument that the electoral college votes should be cast proportionately or in some other different ways or as i've heard this morning in a number of different questions, gone. no more electoral college. >> so, i wrote an article ten years ago saying that what's
most troubling the allocation system for the votes. and at large or multimember districting to suppress minority votes. if you're a hispanic voter in texas and there's reason to polarize voting between angelos in texas, it means that your vote is zero. where as we know from a long line of cases in texas, both under the constitution and under the voting rights act, if you had any other office in texas that was at large at that level, given a certain level of p polarization of the voting, so i think that the problem b with the electoral college is not that it's a distortion from pure democratic forms. leaving the site, larry always
crusading idea that he's going to overturn the last five elections or some number of last elections, but leaving that aside, the problem is not that it's such a big departure. it's less of a departure than the senate. from equal population, but the problem is the winner take all aspect of it is completely discordened with where our law has moved in the last 40 years. >> into a liberal desperation to avoid a trump presidency. it fits in with with the jill stein recount and other aspects and going back to the never trump movement, that people are looking for ways to get around the usual rules in order to get a political outcome that's better. if larry wants to litigate over
whether or not the current way that electoral college votes are allocated is unconstitutional, you don't raise the argument after the election's been had. you raise it for the next election coming. got four years now to litigate that and if he wants to, let him go ahead, but you can't go back and rewrite the rules after the election has come up. >> so, always forward looking. let's say thank you for the pass now and ask our next panelist. to come on up. thank you very much. >> while congress is on break, we're taking the opportunity to show you american history tv programs normally seen only on weekends. we continue tonight with a look at what happened after the end of world war ii. tarting at 8:00 eastern with the fate of o north america war criminals after the war. that's followed by how the war
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