Law School conference tackles lobbying and campaign finance

Published February 25, 2013

The uneasy interaction between lobbying and the financing of election campaigns was the focus of a major conference at SUNY Buffalo Law School. The conference, called "Under the Influence? Interest Groups, Lobbying, and Campaign Finance," took place at the Law School and was sponsored by the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy, the Law School's major interdisciplinary scholarship center.

Conference organizers were Associate Professor Michael Halberstam of SUNY Buffalo Law School and Daniel Tokaji, Robert M. Duncan/Jones Day Designated Professor at The Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law. Tokaji is co-editor of the Election Law Journal, which expects to publish articles that arise from the conference.

Professor Halberstam points out that this was the first conference to focus on the intersection between lobbying and campaign finance, a topic of increasing interest in the scholarly specialization called Law and Democracy. "There is state and federal legislation regulating lobbying and campaign finance, but this has not been looked at together systematically except by a few scholars," Halberstam says. "Now scholars are turning to looking at lobbying as a critical element of political process regulation."

For example, he says, lobbyists now can legally act as campaign finance "bundlers," hosting events through which they leverage much larger campaign contributions than they could otherwise be able to provide. "This kind of bundling goes on all the time," Halberstam says, "and it is one issue of concern – whether lobbyists should be able to act as bundlers."

The conference was also designed, he says, "for people from practice, government, academics and advocacy groups to get together and discuss these issues in a workshop setting that is really intended for us to learn from each other."

"The regulation of lobbying is a cutting edge issue in the law of elections and politics," says Professor Tokaji. "Election Law Journal is excited to have the opportunity to publish papers on lobbying and campaign finance by leading scholars from around the country."

Topics addressed include:

  • the influence of outside money on state and local election contests and legislatures
  • the impact of the Supreme Court's recent First Amendment decisions on state authority to regulate state and local campaign spending and lobbying activity
  • the incentives provided by the tax code for corporate political spending
  • the possibility of public funding for lobbying efforts
  • the promise and limits of disclosure.

Participants included:

  • Nicholas W. Allard, dean of Brooklyn Law School
  • Frank R. Baumgartner, professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Richard Briffault, professor at Columbia Law School
  • Matthew Dimick, associate professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School
  • Lee Drutman, senior fellow at the Sunlight Foundation
  • James Gardner, professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School
  • Heather Gerken, professor at Yale Law School
  • Michael Halberstam, associate professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School
  • Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen
  • Robert J. Jackson Jr., associate professor at Columbia Law School
  • Anthony Johnstone, assistant professor at the University of Montana School of Law
  • Michael S. Kang, professor at Emory Law School
  • Stuart Lazar, associate professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School
  • Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York
  • Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, professor at Notre Dame Law School
  • Amy McKay, professor at Georgia State University
  • Martha T. McCluskey, professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School
  • Alex Tausanovitch, Federal Election Commission
  • Zephyr Teachout, associate professor at Fordham University Law School
  • Daniel Tokaji, professor at The Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law
  • Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, assistant professor at Stetson University Law School