'The Centre Cannot Hold': Campaign Finance Disclosure beyond 2016

15 Pages Posted: 16 May 2017  

Stephen R. Klein

Pillar of Law Institute

Date Written: May 1, 2017

Abstract

This Article is a call to introduce compliance difficulties to the field of campaign finance study; that is, to look at its costs — money, time, and the frustrations that come with both of these — in addition to its results. Recent disclosure cases, and the 2016 election of Donald Trump, show that the disclosure debate is far from over.

The first case this article will discuss, Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington (“CREW”) v. Federal Election Commission, rejected any distinction between disclosure burdens as a matter of law. The second case that will be discussed, Coalition for Secular Government v. Williams, which featured an ample factual record, concluded to the contrary. The case shows not only how small political operations can be choked in red tape under burdensome campaign finance reporting, but that in the as-applied context, judges may see through the platitudes of disclosure and provide appropriate remedies. The final case that will be discussed, Van Hollen v. Federal Election Commission, synthesizes the current disclosure tension as a matter of law and fact. This case provides a sharp contrast to the D.C. District Court’s ruling in CREW and concludes with a quote from William Butler Yeats illustrating that when it comes to current Supreme Court guidance on campaign disclosure, “ ‘the centre cannot hold.’ ”

This Article concludes with a brief discussion of the implications of the 2016 election on campaign finance disclosure, which echoes the Van Hollen decision and Yeats, with the caveat that after 2016 it is quite likely the centre will indeed fold, and quite soon.

Keywords: Campaign Finance, Election Law, Campaign Finance Disclosure, Disclosure, Transparency, Campaign Finance Law, Political Science

Suggested Citation

Klein, Stephen Ralph, 'The Centre Cannot Hold': Campaign Finance Disclosure beyond 2016 (May 1, 2017). Washburn Law Journal, Vol. 56, No. 1, 2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2968536

Stephen Ralph Klein (Contact Author)

Pillar of Law Institute ( email )

455 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Ste. 359
Washington, DC 20001-2742
United States

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