Latest News from the Brennan Center

October 24, 2011

"Moneyball" and Super PACs?

What do Super PACs and “Moneyball” have in common? Independent spending from Super PACs is set to explode in 2012. “The new campaign finance numbers that are changing the political playing field are coming from independent groups — not the campaigns,” writes Adam Skaggs in Politico. Like the executives and big-league scouts in “Moneyball” who focused on outdated statistics, pundits weighing the latest presidential fundraising figures are eyeing the wrong numbers. The Super PAC spending, a potential game changer, won’t be revealed until the end of January, after the first primary contests are over.

NYPD Intel Program: Sunlight Needed

The NYPD has done a tremendous job keeping us safe since 9/11. But recent Associated Press reports call into question some tactics and suggest better oversight is required, writes Faiza Patel in the New York Daily News. The Brennan Center recently asked the NYPD  whether it is following court-imposed procedures to protect against profiling, among other questions.

Attorney General Lauds Laura Abel as “Champion of Change”

Attorney General Eric Holder honored Laura Abel as a Champion of Change for dedicating her professional life to closing the justice gap in America. Abel has led a national drive to boost civil legal aid for low income families. She also fights for access to the courts for people with limited English proficiency. See video and photos from the White House ceremony.

Voting Law Changes in 2012

New restrictive voting laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible citizens voters to cast ballots in 2012, according to Voting Law Changes in 2012, a Brennan Center report. The study launched with a front-page story in the New York Times, and included coverage on the Times editorial page, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and MSNBC.


Ideas on Democracy, Justice, and the Rule of Law

Ballot Box Bullies in Maine – Lee Rowland

Maine deserves better than election policies founded on scare tactics.

Senate Votes on Crucial Justice Funding – Molly Alarcon

Vote will determine funding for civil legal services and prisoner re-entry programs, and the creation of a commission to study our nation's criminal justice system.

Super Committee’s Lack of Transparency – Jonathan Backer

Senator Max Baucus's fundraiser in New York shows the need for greater Super Committee transparency.

Good News for Colorado Voters – Jonathan Brater

A Colorado court denied Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s request for a court order blocking Denver County from sending mail ballots to all registered Denver voters for the 2011 elections. Gessler wanted only those who voted in 2010 to receive ballots this year.

The Not-So Nuclear Option – Mimi Marziani

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid squelched procedural game-playing on the Obama jobs bill. Some observers called the move an invocation of the so-called “nuclear option,” the procedure some have speculated might also be used to overcome Senate filibusters. But actually, what happened was not revolutionary — indeed, it was not even unprecedented. 

What We’re Reading

See what the Brennan Center’s reading in this daily round-up of quick hits, clips, and opinion pieces touching on key issues of democracy, justice, liberty and national security. Includes stories on attempts to repeal Tennessee’s new voter ID law, a new presidential commission to study the criminal justice system, and a guide to campaign finance rules.

Read more blogs here.


  • Oct. 25 – Judge Diane P. Wood presents Part I of the Brennan Center’s annual Jorde Symposium at Berkeley Law School.
  • Nov. 4 – Laura Abel participates in an access to justice conference at the University of Colorado Denver.

The Brennan Center In the News

  • A New York Times editorial argued against the myth of voter fraud, citing the Brennan Center’s new report on voter suppression laws. Times columnist Charles Blow also cited the Center’s report.
  • Nicole Austin-Hillery, Director of the Brennan Center’s Washington, D.C. office, appeared on Washington Watch with Roland Martin to discuss our new voting report.
  • “Some intelligence secrets are too expensive to keep,” begins a Washington Post article prompted by a new Brennan Center report, Reducing Overclassification Through Accountability.
  • Reuters columnist Bernd Debusmann also cited the Brennan Center’s new report in an article describing the federal government’s culture of secrecy.
  • The tactics used by the NYPD to monitor Muslims could make us less safe, the Brennan Center’s Faiza Patel writes in the New York Daily News.
  • Transparency advocacy groups from across the political spectrum, including the Brennan Center, are calling for greater Super Committee transparency, The New York Times reported.
  • In Politico, Brennan Center senior counsel Adam Skaggs argues that the talking heads comparing candidates’ FEC fundraising totals are looking at the wrong statistics, just like the execs and big-league scouts in “Moneyball.” “The new campaign finance numbers that are changing the political playing field are coming from independent groups — not the campaigns,” he writes.
  • NPR’s “All Things Considered” reported on the new Florida law that is forcing the League of Women Voters to give up on voter registration in the state. The Brennan Center is representing the League and opposing the law in federal court.
  • In the Charlotte Observer, Brennan Center attorney David Earley writes that North Carolina should fight to keep public financing for judicial campaigns because it is a "vital bulwark against improper influence."