Latest News from the Brennan Center

May 29, 2012

Brennan Center Urges High Court to Revisit Citizens United The Supreme Court is considering whether to revisit the issues posed by Citizens United. Montana’s Supreme Court upheld that state’s century-old ban on corporate campaign spending. In February, the U.S. Supreme Court froze that decision by issuing a stay. Justices Ginsburg and Breyer issued a statement that many viewed as inviting outsiders to tell the Court about what has happened in the two years since Citizens United. In response, the Brennan Center filed an amicus brief that spells out the dangerous rise of super PACs.

“This election season has been marked by a disturbing new phenomenon — billionaires seeming to sponsor presidential candidates like racehorses,” reads the brief. “Just eighteen months after Citizens United, the new reality portends tremendous risks of corruption and its appearance in this election and those to come.” The brief was filed on behalf of the Center and constitutional scholars including Richard Briffault of Columbia, Dean Erwin Chemerinky of UC-Irvine, and Harvard’s Lawrence Lessig. This miniature “Brandeis Brief” focuses on facts and urges the Court to hear the full case. Read a Politico op-ed on the case by Adam Skaggs.

Faith Leaders Hear Rep. John Lewis on Voting Rights

Tomorrow, the Brennan Center’s Nicole Austin-Hillery will speak on a voting rights panel moderated by civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). “The Problem: State of Voting Rights in the USA” is part of the Congressional Black Caucus Faith Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C. The panel will discuss recent attempts to restrict voter access to the polls, the status of challenges to these proposals, citizen’s voting rights in the upcoming elections, and the role that religious communities can play in protecting voters. Rep. Lewis is the lead sponsor of the Voter Empowerment Act, the first federal bill to include modernized voter registration, a proposal first introduced by the Brennan Center in 2008.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Discusses FBI Book at Brennan Center

Join the Brennan Center on June 12 for a discussion with National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winner Tim Weiner, author of the groundbreaking new book, “Enemies: A History of the FBI.” The New York Times called “Enemies” a “depressing story with all the verve and coherence of a good spy thriller,” and The Wall Street Journal wrote it’s “a fascinating account of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's counterespionage snooping over the past century.” Weiner is a longtime chronicler of the nation’s intelligence agencies. “Legacy of Ashes,” his history of the CIA, won the 2007 National Book Award. A former reporter for The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer, Weiner won a 1988 Pulitzer Prize for his stories on the intelligence community’s secret $35 billion “black budget.” For more information about the event, go here.

From the Brennan Center Blog

Undoing the Damage of Citizens United – Adam Skaggs

  • In a Montana campaign finance case, the Supreme Court has the opportunity to fix the Citizens United mess. Skaggs argues that it should do so not only for the sake of its own legitimacy, but for the sake of American democracy.

Documentary Tells Story of Philadelphia Criminal Justice Debt – Meghna Philip

  • The University of Pennsylvania documentary “Pay Up!” chronicles Philadelphia’s attempts to collect fees and court costs from people who passed through the city’s criminal justice system. The film highlights the injustice of continuing to force people to pay for their crimes, long after they’ve completed their sentences.

Florida Should Avoid Past Misdeeds – Myrna Pérez

  • Florida’s Secretary of State has announced an effort to purge Florida’s voter rolls of non-citizens and the deceased. But Pérez reminds readers that the state’s previous attempts deleted eligible voters. Careful scrutiny is needed to ensure the latest initiative is not a repeat of the past.

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Upcoming Events

  • May 30Nicole Austin-Hillery participates in a panel, "The Problem: State of Voting Rights in the USA," at a Congressional Black Caucus Faith Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C.
  • June 7Mimi Marziani presents "How to Fix Our Broken Voting and Campaign Finance Systems" at Netroots Nation in Providence, R.I.
  • June 9Keesha Gaskins participates in a panel, "The War on Voting," at Netroots Nation in Providence, R.I.
  • June 12 – Tim Weiner, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author of “Enemies: A History of the FBI,” visits the Brennan Center to discuss the FBI's past and its transformation into America's primary counterterrorism agency.
  • June 16Nicole Austin-Hillery participates in an American Constitution Society panel, "What's at Stake: Examining Voting Rights in the 21st Century," in Washington, D.C.
  • June 16Monica Youn participates in "Citizens United Two Years Later: Money, Politics and Democracy at Stake" at the American Constitution Society National Convention in Washington, D.C.
  • June 20Mark Ladov speaks at a New York Civil Liberties Union discussion of Citizens United at Hofstra Law School.

  • In a Slate piece about an Ohio initiative to discard ballots when poll workers — not voters — make errors, Dahlia Lithwick cited a speech by Wendy Weiser as an “indispensable primer” on voter suppression efforts..  
  • Jesse Jackson’s Chicago Sun-Times op-ed recalled the long history of expansion of the right to vote, and used Brennan Center data to support his argument that new voting laws are “a systematic effort to suppress the vote.”  
  • Adam Skaggs took on James Bopp (legal adviser for Citizens United and now lead counsel in the Montana case discussed above) in a KPCC radio discussion showcasing both sides of the campaign finance debate. Skaggs also spoke to Roll Call’s Eliza Newlin Carney about the case.
  • The Washington Post quoted the Brennan Center’s brief in the Montana case (see above) to show the influence of super PACs. The report adds that the key question in the Montana appeal is whether one of the Justices in the Citizens United majority has changed their mind.
  • Nicole Austin-Hillery spoke to McClatchy about the Congressional Black Caucus's attempt to rally preachers to tackle new voter ID laws. "The churches will really have to step up to the plate and help parishioners get the voter ID required by some states," she said.
  • Tampa Bay Times columnist Robyn E. Blumner reviewed Florida’s purge of the voter rolls just before the 2000 election as well as the most recent effort. She concludes these purges are thinly-veiled attempts by Republicans to ”gin up voter fraud claims to justify turning voting into an obstacle course to dissuade Democratic-leaning constituencies.”
  • Ari Berman at The Nation analyzed the Voter Empowerment Act, a new federal bill that includes voter registration modernization, a proposal first put forward by the Brennan Center in 2008.

To read more Brennan Center In The News, click here.