Robert Post’s “Citizens Divided” Book

There are a spate of campaign finance books coming out over the next few months—including books by Robert Post, Bob Mutch, Ken Vogel, Zephyr Teachout, and Timothy Kuhner.  I will try to write short reflections on each of these books as I read them.  These will be very short, as I’m in the midst of my own manuscript on campaign finance, which will allow deeper exploration of these books as necessary for my argument.

Today a few words on Robert Post’s book, which is out today (and which I read a few weeks ago). This book is Post’s two-part Tanner lecture at Harvard (just shy of 100 pages total, not counting footnotes), along with commentaries by Pam Karlan, Larry Lessig, Frank Michelman, and Nadia Urbinati.

Post is a wonderful writer, and I highly recommend this book for its first half, which nicely constructs the meaning of voting and representation throughout American history. I believe the book’s second half (the second Tanner lecture) is less successful. In it, Post (who in the past had been critical of the constitutionality of much campaign regulation), advances what he terms an “electoral integrity” argument which he posits could stand to reverse Citizens United. 

The “electoral integrity” argument is important to read and understand, if for no other reason than Justice Breyer relies upon it in his dissent in the McCutcheon case.  (Reliance was quite odd because the book was listed as forthcoming and no draft was currently available.)

I find the electoral integrity argument to be mostly a fancy way of making an appearance of corruption argument, and therefore the argument suffers from some of the same problems that this argument has.  (Pam makes this point very well in her contribution to the book.)  I am not sure Post advances the ball very much in this area.

Also interesting to me is that Post and Lessig engage, and Post reads Lessig as making a political equality argument for reform, which Lessig again resists (as he has when I’ve made that point, as have Bruce Cain and Guy Charles).

I’ll have much more to say about Post’s fascinating book, but it will likely await my own work in the area.


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