Cornell Law Review Volume 101 Issue 3

The Brave New World of Party Campaign Finance Law

The Article challenges calls for the deregulation of party campaign finance as part of the ongoing transformation of federal campaign finance law under the Roberts Court. First, on the legal front, the Article presents a new constitutional approach to campaign finance corruption that builds on the basic premise that what can be plausibly exchanged between an individual contributor and individual officeholder, can be plausibly exchanged between a contributor and a group of officeholders, who agree to coordinate. This intuition about collective quid pro quo corruption stays faithful to the basic conception of quid pro quo exchange as its defining harm, just as the Roberts Court insists, but allows for pragmatic sensibilities about a campaign finance system in which officeholders and candidates are thoroughly interconnected by party ties. Second, on the policy front, the Article engages normative appeals to deregulate party campaign finance and centralize campaign finance in the parties as a response to the rise of Super PACs and other outside groups. I skeptically assess the consequences of deregulating party campaign finance and argue that campaign finance law should rediscover central concerns about distributional representation, rather than focusing too narrowly on the balance of power among party elites.

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