McCutcheon Oral Arguments: Dollar Amounts, not Theories

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9 Responses

  1. Joe says:

    It would be interesting how justices from the era where more former politicians were on the bench would try these cases.

  2. Zephyr Teachout says:


    There’s a big shift after Buckley, and much of it is around conceptions of corruption. You might think that those with political experience would be “hard headed” and expect politicians and lobbyists to be self-interested, while idealistic academics would expect more, but the reverse is true: in general, the more politically experienced justices are more sympathetic to corruption claims and more likely to believe public-good conceptions of republican government. Scholars are more cynical than politicians about what is pscyhologically possible in public office and as a citizen.

    The extreme, of course, is the Trist v. Childs court — made of up of many politicians– which found that lobbying was corrupt and against the public policy of the united states, because the virtue of the citizen was the foundation of a republic.


  3. Joe says:

    Thanks. Justice Kennedy was a lobbyist.

  4. Zephyr Teachout says:

    I hadn’t thought about that, how Kennedy’s description of influence-peddling as salutory (in CU) comes from his own self-identification with influence-peddling. Thanks!

  5. Brett Bellmore says:

    Perhaps those with political experience ARE “hard headed”, and realize that, regardless of what the ‘reformers’ think they’re doing, the legislators are just enacting incumbent protection measures? And believe, in their “hard headed” way that this is all that can reasonably be expected of legislation so directly impacting the conduct of campaigns?

    That’s my own view: Regardless of what theoretical gains you might hope for from campaign regulation, the conflict of interest involved in incumbent officeholders designing the rules under which their seats may be challenged is just too great to reasonably expect good faith regulation in this area.

    But, perhaps as a former member of a third party, I’m just bitter over the way successive waves of ‘reforms’ destroyed any chance we had of success by targeting whatever we did that seemed to work.

  6. Shag from Brookline says:

    Brett is a refreshing reminder of the good old days of “anarcho-libertarianism,” whenever that was. His self description “as a former member of a third party” that he fails to identify is curious. I think Brett’s too young to have joined Strom Thurmond’s Third Party in 1948. And Brett might favor us by identifying his ” … whatever we did that seemed to work” the destruction of which he is bitter about. Brett’s “we” brings to mind Tonto’s response to the Lone Ranger concerned with being surrounded by bad guys: What you mean ‘we,’ Kemo Sabe?” [I cleaned this up to avoid sensitivities.]

  7. Liam says:

    How is a hypothetical lacking in empirical support not wild? Kagan’s hypo was properly characterized as wild for two reasons: (1) campaign PACs are not and have not funneled the entirety of their funds to a separate campaign PAC; and (2) she did not know the base limit for PAC-to-PAC transfers, a simple base concept in campaign finance.

  8. Zephyr Teachout says:

    Liam–I fundamentally agree with you. I found the effort to ground the stories refreshing, but the basic lack of shared understanding on the mechanics disturbing. And I think this kind of case should not be argued without a deep understanding and a better record. I do think Alito also misunderstands, but but that doesn’t excuse the general lack of understanding, and the abstraction base line.

    More on wild hypotheticals:

  9. Zephyr Teachout says:

    this is intriguing too–are campaign finance laws too complicated? too..