Hasen (Law and Political Science/Univ. of California, Irvine; The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown, 2012, etc.) examines the always-contentious issue of campaign finance.
Politicians and lawyers will undoubtedly appreciate the depth of the author’s research, while others may get bogged down. He cites numerous cases showing how the courts deal with threats to the First Amendment’s freedom of speech. Of course, one of Hasen’s main concerns is the Citizens United decision, in which, he writes, “the Supreme Court decided that what had been constitutional under the First Amendment one day was unconstitutional the next.” As the author notes, the country’s highest court is the main perpetrator of all that is wrong with campaign finance. That economic inequality transfers to political inequality is evidenced by the fact that even a threat of major backers—e.g., the Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson—turning against a politician will cause that politician to think twice before voting against big money’s interests. Though Hasen acknowledges that money is paramount in the American political system, it isn’t decisive in every election. He agrees that campaign finance limits raise the risk of censorship, protect incumbents, and give preferential treatment to the media. His proposal of a voucher system is a radical change that might just work. Initially, readers will immediately wonder who would receive the vouchers: registered voters or eligible voters? And who will pay for it? Government? Taxes? Will people even bother to use their vouchers? These are all realistic questions, and the author provides some intriguing possible answers. Whatever the solution, he writes, “nothing less than changing the Court can now fix it.”
The author’s scholarly work is certain to be shelved in law libraries and become required reading for politicians. However, the book is deeply geared toward legal minds and may frustrate general readers.