Collins & Skover, When Money Speaks: The McCutcheon Decision, Campaign Finance Laws, and the First Amendment

[This is the latest in a series of short reflections on new books in campaign finance which I am working my way through as I write my own manuscript on the subject.]

Professors Ron Collins and David Skover, two law professors with expertise on the First Amendment, have written When Money Speaks: The McCutcheon Decision, Campaign Finance Laws, and the First Amendment. They wrote the book while the McCutcheon Supreme Court case was pending, and finished the final chapters within a few days after the decision in the case. The book describes the course of the McCutcheon litigation, and along the way weaves in a discussion of the First Amendment issues and Supreme Court cases concerning campaign finance law from before Buckley v. Valeo to the present.

The book is primarily useful as an introduction for undergraduates to the world of Supreme Court litigation and campaign finance. It includes interviews with Shaun McCutcheon and others, descriptions of the briefs and oral argument, as well as an analysis of the decision. The book does not take a strong side in how the litigation should come out, and presents both sides of the case. There is also a lot of description of litigation strategy and the players behind the scenes.

For those already familiar with the world of campaign financing, there is not much new ground. The primary benefit of this book comes through the interviews with the players, giving flavor to some of the behind the scenes maneuvering regarding legal representation in the case. It is worth reading to have a sense of how campaign finance cases get constructed and litigated through the court system.

One frustrating aspect of the book is its lack of footnotes. The authors often quote or describe someone’s argument, and there is a bibliography at the end of the book. But if you want to track down a particular quote or idea and match it to a specific source, you cannot do so just from the book itself.

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