Latest News from the Brennan Center

December 2, 2011

FEC Fails to Enforce Super PAC Coordination Rules

The Federal Election Commission deadlocked Thursday on an American Crossroads request to allow federal candidates to coordinate with the Super PAC on its advertisements. “Karl Rove asked the FEC to declare that advertisements he admits are ‘fully coordinated’ with candidates nonetheless don't count as ‘coordinated communications’ — and the FEC's failure to decisively reject this absurd request proves it cannot enforce the campaign finance laws its commissioners are sworn to uphold,” said Brennan Center senior counsel Adam Skaggs. “If the FEC cannot reach the correct result in such a black and white case, it must be replaced.” See Skaggs’ op-ed on the FEC in The Atlantic and read the Huffington Post coverage. The Brennan Center had urged the FEC to deny the request.

The Brennan Center and other civil rights groups urged the Justice Department to block implementation of Texas’s new voter ID law. Data shows that the new law, which imposes a government-issued photo ID requirement for voting, will disproportionately burden minority voters and produce discriminatory effects. Specifically, statistical analysis of Texas’s own data shows conclusively that a higher percentage of Latino registered voters than white registered voters lack government-issued photo ID.

Many claim the conservative majority of the Roberts Court are champions of free speech, but evidence shows otherwise, writes Monica Youn, the Brennan Center’s Constitutional Fellow at NYU School of Law. In its first five years, the Roberts Court held that a free speech violation existed in just one-third of the 27 free speech cases it heard. Youn also focuses on the Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United, which allowed corporations and unions to spend freely to influence elections. She concludes that the decision “continues to raise more First Amendment questions than it answers.”

New Majority, Same Old Albany?

The Brennan Center's Lawrence Norden and Eric Lane wrote the New York State Senate Majority Counsel this week, challenging the majority's refusal to consider petitions for public hearings on legislation and pushing back on its misinterpretation of the Senate Rules. The Daily News covered our letter, which called out the majority for undoing a key reform dating back to 2009 without even voting to change the rules. Public hearings on legislation are a basic part of the lawmaking process in most states, but have been suppressed in New York's legislature. In 2004 and 2006, the Center declared the New York Legislature the most dysfunctional in the country. Read our ReformNY blog for updates on our Albany reform efforts.

The Secret History of the Second Amendment

Next Thursday, December 8, the Brennan Center hosts Adam Winkler and Jeffrey Rosen for a discussion on Winkler’s new book, Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America, a groundbreaking reexamination of one of today’s most controversial issues. Weaving together the dramatic story of a landmark Supreme Court case and the remarkable hidden history of guns in America, Winkler shows how gun rights — and gun control — have shaped the nation in fascinating and unexpected ways. Click here for more information to RSVP.


Ideas on Democracy, Justice, and the Rule of Law

The NYPD: Making the FBI Look Good – Faiza Patel & Andrew Sullivan

  • The Jose Pimentel case underscores the need for oversight of the NYPD's intelligence activities.

Foreclosure Mill Grinds to a Halt – Roopal Patel

  • Closing Steven J. Baum's "foreclosure mill" is just one of many necessary steps to ensure fairness and due process for New York homeowners.

Reality and the Right to Counsel in Maryland – Sarah Hook

  • A Maryland Court of Appeals case highlights the complicated nature of the fundamental right to counsel.

My Trip to Guantánamo Bay – Emily Berman

  • A Brennan Center fellow travels to Guantánamo Bay to observe the arraignment of an accused U.S.S. Cole bomber and uncovers surprising questions about the case and the legal nature of military commission proceedings.  

Money and Politics This Week – ReformNY

  • A roundup with the latest news highlighting the corrosive nature of money in New York State politics — and the need for public financing and robust campaign finance reform.

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 the Election Assistance Commission, Super PAC coordination rules, and a controversial defense bill.

Read more blogs here.


  • Dec. 7 – Elizabeth Goitein moderates a panel on classification at the American Society of Access Professionals annual symposium in Washington, D.C.
  • Dec. 8 – Author Adam Winkler and law Professor Jeffrey Rosen discuss the battle over the right to bear arms in America at the Brennan Center in New York City.
  • Dec. 8-9 – The Brennan Center’s Justice Program attends the National Legal Aid & Defender Association annual conference in Washington, D.C., participating in panels on language access, foreclosure, criminal justice, and fees and fines.

  • Mark Ladov wrote a letter to the editor in the New York Times responding to an op-ed from Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig on money in politics.
  • An editorial in the Chicago Tribune highlighted our report on money in judicial elections. The Salem Statesman Journal also cited the report.
  • The New York Daily News covered our letter to the state Senate calling out lawmakers for “limiting senators’ ability to hold public hearings.”
  • Writing in The Atlantic, Adam Skaggs analyzed recent FEC dysfunction and called for the agency to be abolished. He was also quoted by the Huffington Post on the American Crossroads Super PAC request.
  • In The Hill, political strategist Karen Finney detailed the new election laws that could make it harder for 5 million people to vote in 2012, citing our latest report.
  • Lawrence Norden spoke to Politico about new voting technology in 2012. Norden also spoke to Mother Jones about voting technology and the Election Assistance Commission.
  • The National Journal wrote about our joint letter urging Congress to oppose the repeal of the presidential public financing system and the termination of the Election Assistance Commission.
  • The Brennan Center’s Nic Riley and Tamara Marshall wrote an op-ed on the potential for problematic poll watchers in Texas.
  • See coverage of Faiza Patel’s appearance at a congressional briefing on “radicalization” of American Muslims.
  • Writing for the Huffington Post, the former CEO of AT&T Broadband highlighted the Brennan Center’s efforts to bring public financing to New York State.
  • The Brennan Center’s Laura Abel participated in a podcast on the impact of budget cuts on the court system.