Beth Garrett Remembrances

Following this sad news, some remembrances:

Ann Ravel: It is incredibly sad to hear about Beth’s death. She was a commissioner on the California Fair Political Practices Commission when I became chair. She was hardworking, thoughtful, and strong in her views about ethics and campaign finance law. She vigorously supported disclosure and transparency (having written influential articles about the importance of voting cues. Though she was very busy as Provost at USC, she called me to express her great enthusiasm after the filing of the “dark money” litigation.

Adam Winkler: I met Beth at my very first campaign finance conference, at the University of Texas back in the late 1990s. It was a memorable conference. Rick presented a paper on restricting media endorsements of candidates, which led Lucas Powe to liken Rick to Stalin. Needless to say, I was nervous and felt out of place, a mere grad student in a small room full of leading (and, like Powe, assertive, no-holds-barred) scholars. Beth, a professor at the University of Chicago at the time, went out of her way to make me feel comfortable. She sat next to me during several sessions. She asked about my research and solicited my reactions to various papers. I discovered that she had been largely the author of Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce while clerking for Justice Marshall. She told me my unusual take on Austin — that it was largely about protecting dissenting shareholders, not just restricting corporate power — was correct. Beth eased my insecurity and made me feel welcome in world of the campaign finance scholars. Years later, after she moved to USC and we started an informal election law working group with Dan Lowenstein, Bob Pushaw, Rick, and others, I came suspect that she may have been flattering me on the meaning of Austin. But she had done it to make me feel comfortable at a time of unease and self-doubt. I have since tried to do the same for young scholars just trying to break in. Beth was not only a great scholar but also a fine person. May she rest in peace.

Dan Lowenstein: What terrible news!  Horrible and tragic, indeed. For all her hard work, Beth was by no means one-dimensional.  She enjoyed theater and the arts, could speak insightfully on almost any subject, and was as gracious a person as one could hope to meet.

Adam Bonin: I took Intro to Federal Tax from Prof. Garrett in her first year teaching at UChicago. She was tough but fair, and completely thorough.  Generous with her time in helping students one-on-one, and beloved across the school’s wide ideological spectrum — see my classmate as well. It’s a horrible loss.

Ilya Shapiro: Here’s what I just tweeted in response to Ajit: I still remember her enthusiasm during admitted students weekend at Chicago. What a loss.

Bill Maurer: I did not know Professor Garrett well, but I had the pleasure of debating her on campaign finance issues for the Federalist Society. She was such a notably pleasant, intellectually honest, and intelligent advocate. Even though we were ostensibly on different sides of the issues, I relied on her scholarship often—scholarship that was always extremely well-written, cogent, and groundbreaking. She represented what is best in both academia and in the law. Our practice area and profession are lessened by her passing. RIP.

Spencer Overton: I admired Beth’s scholarship and leadership, and I appreciated her friendship. A piece she did on tax credits and campaign contributions inspired at least three of my articles.  She had a perspective,  but her work was measured and rigorous.  I respected her voice. I got to really know her when we served on the Common Cause National Governing Board.  We served together during a difficult time of transition, and worked to get the organization into a stable space where it could start a new chapter.  I valued Beth’s move into academic administration.  The concept of building institutions that allow thinkers to develop ideas that change the world resonated with me.  I’m sure her example influenced my current work at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. Smart.  Leader.  Public-minded.  Good. I am sad.

Ellen Aprill: Beth was not only incredibly smart, competent and focused, but she was also one of the most efficient people I have ever met.  Even after she became Provost of USC with all the duties that position entailed, she continued to be a productive scholar.  One mutual friend told me that Beth never wasted a minute — if she had a 15 minute gap in her schedule, she would use that time to write.  This ability represented another of her many and diverse skills and talents.

Jessica Levinson: A few years out of law school I read a number of Beth’s fine articles before writing my first piece. I essentially wrote her a fan letter; I told her how much her clear thinking and writing was helping me to organize my thoughts. I did not except to hear back. She responded within about 10 seconds and invited me to lunch. After lunch she offered to read whatever I wrote. Many months later I sent her my piece with a note that essentially said, “thank you for the time and inspiration, no need to comment, I’m sure you’re incredibly busy.” She wrote back with thoughtful and helpful comments six hours later. The delay was due to the fact that she got on a five hour flight moments after receiving me email. That was Beth.

Anthony Johnstone: When I sat in her Introductory Income Tax class at Chicago, I could not have guessed that Professor Garrett’s hard-nosed scholarly attention to the practice of politics would have inspired me nearly two decades later. Then and now, however, an even greater inspiration was Professor Garrett’s teaching: intensely kind, with an equal emphasis on both words. She would jar us out of our code books with sheer kinetics, bouncing around the lecture hall, peppering us with questions, demanding precision, always with a sparkle and grin confirming she was on our side. When I learned of her untimely death just before entering my own classroom yesterday, this is what I remembered most. We have lost an amazing teacher.

Michael Kang: Beth Garrett was a wonderful mentor and great friend. She touched so many people with the force of her personality and brilliance, and for one, my life would be very different today if not for Beth. My wife and I started dating with her encouragement, and I certainly wouldn’t have had my academic career without her support. Even after our busy lives (hers busier than mine) limited our meetings mainly to conferences and the occasional drink at the airport, Beth unfailingly kept in touch with Christmas cards, little notes of kindness, and inquiries about my wife and daughter. Her drive and energy were always an inspiration, but I’ll miss her personal touch even more.

I will continue to update this post with additional remembrances as they come in.




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