Program on Law and Government Hosts Event on Regulation of Money in Politics

On Thursday, October 27th, the Program on Law and Government hosted former FEC Commissioner Caroline Hunter and American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL) Professor and former general counsel for the FEC Larry Noble to discuss regulation of money in politics. The event was co-hosted by the AUWCL chapters of the American Constitution Society and Federalist Society. Professor Fernando Laguarda, Faculty Director of the Program on Law and Government, moderated the discussion.

Commissioner Hunter began the discussion by providing an overview of the debate on the proper role of money in politics, which she noted has not changed much over time. While the issues of the day might be different, the underpinning of the debate is essentially always the philosophies of the two major parties. Republicans tend to favor a more conservative, libertarian approach to the law, while Democrats tend to favor a more regulatory approach. She also noted that the Republican view, which tends to defer to First Amendment rights rather than government interests, is largely supported by existing Supreme Court jurisprudence.

Professor Noble then provided his thoughts on the issues facing the FEC today. He noted that much of the focus of the current day is on the 2020 election, but that these issues existed before this campaign cycle began and will exist after it ends. “Money in politics is a major reason, in my view, why we are where we are today. It is a reason why we have so many problems in this country. I have long believed that regardless of what you think is the most important issue…the influence of money in politics distorts our ability to make rational choices about that issue based on facts and all relevant interests and, I think, the common good.” According to Professor Noble, the problem is that money in politics allows corporations and wealthy individuals to drown out the voices of individual voters. Like Commissioner Hunter, Professor Noble also discussed Supreme Court jurisprudence. However, he was more critical of the Court, saying that the jurisprudence amounts to acknowledging that wealthy people in America are entitled to greater influence in the American system than their middle- and working-class counterparts.

Event attendees, including AUWCL students and alumni, submitted questions for the two speakers. Attendees asked about many topics, including the implications of Michael Bloomberg’s large expenditures on the 2020 presidential election cycle, dark money, and coordination between “super PACs” and campaigns. While Commissioner Hunter and Professor Noble sharply disagreed on the lasting ideological debate cited at the beginning of the event, they provided a civil, honest, and informational discussion about the nuanced implications of both the Republican and Democratic policy approaches to campaign finance regulation.

The Program on Law and Government is grateful to both speakers for taking the time to present to the AUWCL community and respond to student questions. Time will tell who ultimately will win this debate!