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Congress' passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 did not end the debate on campaign finance. Instead, it arguably created more legal questions than it did answers. 

The Act's passage quickly unleashed subsequent litigation, resulting in a number of Supreme Court decisions directly related to the BCRA and, more broadly, to general laws regulating campaign finance. These recent Supreme Court cases, including the much-discussed Citizens United decision, struck down many campaign regulations on the grounds that they infringe upon individuals' First Amendment rights. Some have charged that decisions like these have increased the influence of a privileged few in our political system. Others have argued that these decisions are not only doctrinally correct, but the prudential fears many have expressed have not been borne out.

Still, Americans remain discontented with the current campaign finance regime. According to a New York Times/CBS News poll in 2015, 46% of respondents agree that the country needs to completely rebuild its campaign finance system, while 39% believed it requires fundamental change. Today, groups and individuals continue to fight limits on political contributions, and restrictions on political speech, while others push for stricter regulations. 

This panel will weigh in on whether decisions like Citizens United are correct as a matter of law, and if they are desirable from a policy perspective. The panel will also discuss the jurisprudential foundations of Citizens United—including the landmark case of Buckley v. Valeo—and where future fights over campaign finance regulations are likely to occur.

This panel was presented at the 2017 National Student Symposium on Saturday, March 4, 2017, at Columbia Law School in New York City, New York.

Panel 2: Campaign Finance and Free Speech
9:30 a.m. -11:00 a.m.
Jerome Greene Hall 104

  • Prof. Brad Smith, Josiah H. Blackmore II/Shirley M. Nault Professor of Law, Capital University Law School; Former FEC Commissioner
  • Prof. Richard Pildes, Sudler Family Professor of Constitutional Law, New York University School of Law
  • Prof. John O. McGinnis, George C. Dix Professor in Constitutional Law, Northwestern University School of Law
  • Prof. Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Fellow, Brennan Center for Justice; Associate Professor of Law, Stetson University College of Law
  • Moderator: Hon. Richard J. Sullivan, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York

Columbia Law School
New York, New York