Monthly Archives: January 2014

Bill Maher To Become Poster Child for Defenders of Citizens United

Bill Maher’s announcement that he will use his HBO show to try to defeat a House incumbent will soon become Exhibit A for those defending the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision.  Why?

Because the restrictions on corporate election spending in the McCain-Feingold law specifically exempted “media” corporations.  To critics of the law, this special treatment of media corporations (leaving aside all the difficulties of how to define the media in the digital age) was always one of the reasons the restrictions on other corporate election spending should be considered unconstitutional.  The Supreme Court majority specifically pointed out this different treatment of different corporate entities in the law.

Bill Maher’s show reportedly reaches 1.2 million viewers an episode, according to this link I quickly found.  If the corporate resources of HBO can be used to try to defeat a particular House candidate, the defenders of Citizens United will argue, why should other corporations not be able to engage in the same activity to reach comparable sized audiences?  The story suggests Maher is most likely to go after a sitting Republican, and that will fuel this defense of Citizens United all the more.  To many Republicans who view the media as tilted to the liberal side, there was always a partisan cast to permitting unlimited electioneering spending from media corporations while regulating that of other corporations.  If this Bill Maher project takes off, I suspect his name will now come up in most debates about Citizens United: if HBO and Bill Maher can try to defeat House candidates, why shouldn’t other corporations be able to do the same?

For a critical analysis from the perspective of constitutional law of McCain-Feingold’s different treatment of media and non-media corporations, see this important article in the Yale Law Journal by Michael McConnell.

“Maher Wants His Show to Decide a House Race”


Bill Maher makes little effort to hide his own contempt for many politicians, most of them Republicans. Now, he wants to take it to the next level: finding one he might be able to help oust from office.

On his weekly HBO talk show, “Real Time With Bill Maher,” on Friday night, Mr. Maher and his staff plan to ask viewers to make a case for their individual representatives in the House to be selected as the worst in the country.

After some culling and analysis, one member of Congress will be selected, and the show will follow up through November with examples of what it considers terrible work by that representative. Mr. Maher will make occasional visits to that member’s district to perform stand-up and generally stir up hostile feelings toward the show’s target.

I plan to watch this very closely and comment on it.

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“Going on Offensive to Expand the Vote”

WaPo: “Here’s a very interesting development that suggests Dems are beginning to take the war over voting far more seriously than in the past — and are gearing up for a protracted struggle over voting access that could make a real difference in 2016. A group of leading Democratic strategists is launching a new political action committee that will raise money for a very specific purpose: Getting Democratic secretaries of state who favor expanded voting elected in four states — Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, and Nevada.”

In The Voting Wars I discuss an earlier Democratic effort, the Secretaries of State project.

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Revised Schedule for Duke’s Campaign Finance Symposium Next Week

The Future of Campaign Finance Reform


Hosted by the Duke Journal of Constitutional Law and Public Policy and the Center on Law, Race, and Politics

Friday, February 7, 2013


9:00 a.m.    Introductory Remarks Sanford 223


9:15 a.m.    Classifying Corruption Sanford 223

Authors:          Yasmin Dawood, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto

Richard L. Hasen, University of California, Irvine School of Law

Moderator:      Zephyr Teachout, Fordham University School of Law

Commentator: James A. Gardner, SUNY Buffalo Law School


10:25 a.m.  Break


10:40 a.m.  Regulating Corruption – Sanford 223

Authors:          Eugene Mazo, Wake Forest University School of Law

Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Stetson University College of Law

Moderator:      Guy-Uriel Charles, Duke University School of Law

Commentator: Jason A. Abel, Steptoe & Johnson LLP


11:50 a.m. Break/Change of Venue


12:20 p.m.  Lunch and Keynote Address by Lawrence Lessig Law 3043


1:20 p.m.    Break





1:30 p.m.    Big Money/Soft Money Law 4047

Authors:          Ellen D. Katz, University of Michigan Law School

Raymond La Raja, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Lynda W. Powell, University of Rochester

Moderator:      Richard L. Hasen, University of California, Irvine School of Law

Commentator: Michael D. Gilbert, University of Virginia School of Law


2:50 p.m.    Break


3:00 p.m.    Next Steps – Law 4047

Authors:          Renata E. Strause, The Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law

Zephyr Teachout, Fordham University School of Law

Moderator:      James A. Gardner, SUNY Buffalo Law School

Commentator: Guy-Uriel Charles, Duke University School of Law


4:00 p.m.    Closing Remarks – Law 4047

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