On August 6th, Bob Bauer – a distinguished scholar-in-residence at New York University’s School of Law – wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times titled, “Why Russian Money Ends Up in US Elections.”
This is a hot topic in the news today, and for good reason. People are concerned about the legitimacy of the election process and want to be able to trust that their donation money is going in the right direction.
Mr. Bauer argues that there needs to be a new model of campaign finance. He cites the example of Citizens United, which took down many of the campaign finance regulations of the past. Citizens United was a landmark case that argued the First Amendment of the Constitution allows for organizations to spend as much money as they wish to endorse any desired candidate.
According to Mr. Bauer, Citizens United is emblematic of a larger failure to uphold many of the campaign finance reforms of the 1970s. He asserts that the Russian attempt to sway the 2016 election for then-candidate Donald Trump is a consequence of these failures.
Mr. Bauer states that campaign finance is now a “competition” that is particularly appealing to foreign governments.
If this is where we are now, what is the future of campaign finance? Mr. Bauer suggests that it will become increasingly digital in nature. He predicts that organizations will rely less on TV ads to entice voters to donate and more on direct engagement with potential supporters online. As for regulation, Mr. Bauer states that the government should provide public access to necessary financial functions, including supplying resources that protect state and local elections from potential cyber attacks.
Mr. Bauer contends that this is something that both parties should heartily endorse. He also argues that the government should make clearer transparency rules and enforce a ban on foreign spending.
Mr. Bauer concludes by suggesting the government should not leave all campaign finance to private donors. It should also play a role in funding some of the basic costs associated with maintaining a democracy.