Distinguished Lecture in Election Law

Press Date
March 29, 2024
Professor Briffault presents the Distinguished Lecture in Election Law.

Columbia Professor Richard Briffault presents the Distinguished Lecture in Election Law.

On Wednesday, March 19, 2024, we were delighted to hold the inaugural Distinguished Lecture in Election Law, which featured Richard Briffault, the Joseph P. Chamberlain professor of legislation at Columbia Law School. Professor Briffault is Columbia Law School’s authority on state and local government and an expert on issues central to democracy and the political process, such as campaign finance reform, government ethics, gerrymandering, election administration, and fair elections. In his lecture, "Decline and Fall? The Uncertain Future of Campaign Finance Law," Briffault discussed the campaign finance regulation which was established by Congress fifty years ago in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, and how shortly after, the Supreme Court, in Buckley v. Valeo, decided a host of constitutional challenges to the new law, which created a campaign finance system significantly different from the one Congress intended. Briffault noted that this established doctrine, with few changes, continues to govern today, and said that after a half-century, it’s hard to say things have worked out well.  

“With respect to the FECA (Federal Election Campaign Act) specifics touted by President Ford,” Briffault said, “spending is unlimited; the statutory contribution limits are effectively circumvented; the presidential public funding system has completely collapsed; the FEC is paralyzed by partisan deadlock; and disclosure—probably the greatest strength of the system—is on increasingly shaky ground.”  

Professor Briffault went on to examine the basic elements of the Supreme Court’s campaign finance doctrine, its impact on our political system, and some alternative scenarios for the future of campaign finance law. Many thanks to Professor Briffault for presenting this timely lecture and Professor Michael Morley for planning the event as part of our new Election Law Center programming! You can view a recording of the lecture on our website.