Political Campaign Finance

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Nathaniel Persily, a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, can provide expert comment on the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold political campaign finance law.

Professor Persily teaches courses in constitutional law and contemporary issues in law and politics. His areas of expertise are campaign finance reform, voting rights, election law and congressional redistricting.

" It appears that the Republicans, who largely opposed McCain-Feingold, have done better in fundraising under the law than the Democrats," he says. "Critics argue that political parties will be killed by this law, which attempts to plug up the 2018soft money' loophole by eliminating huge corporate and union contributions to the parties. I think there is little evidence for the debilitating effect of the law on parties in general; however, I do share the worries of some of the critics that the law will push electoral power away from political parties and toward more narrow issue-specific interest groups."

Regarding the First Amendment rights of corporations and unions, Professor Persily says, "This law is unique in that it forbids corporate and union advertisements from uttering the name of a candidate (or even referring to him) within 60 days of an election. I doubt the Court will uphold what is a novel speech code, but if they do it is because precedent has allowed for unique restrictions on corporate and union electoral activity. The question that will be on everyone's mind will be, What will the Supreme Court do? I think the answer depends on whether Chief Justice Rehnquist stays on the Court long enough to hear this case. People don't realize that he has been quite permissive of regulation of corporate speech, which is a large part of this law, and he could be the swing vote."

Professor Persily is the author of two recent articles on campaign finance, "Soft Money and Slippery Slopes" for Election Law Journal and "Parties, Money and Corruption" for Oxford Press. He has published articles on the legal regulation of political parties in the Columbia Law Review, NYU Law Review, and Georgetown Law Journal. His writings include "Candidates v. Parties: The Constitutional Constraints on Primary Ballot Access Laws," Georgetown Law Journal (2001), and "Toward a Functional Defense of Political Party Autonomy," NYU Law Review (2001).