Feingold, Starr Debate Citizens United But Agree On Need For Transparency
Professor Pam Karlan moderated a discussion between Former Senator and inaugural Mimi and Peter E. Haas Distinguished Visitor Russ Feingold and Judge Kenneth Starr about political reform, particularly campaign finance. Professor Karlan described the decision in Citizens United as failing to be coherent to anyone and Feingold regarded it as "fundamentally one of the worst decisions" in law and policy.
Former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) said April 30 that the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was one of the worst things to happen to democracy.
Former federal judge Kenneth Starr responded that the ruling protected free speech.
The two made the remarks at a discussion of campaign finance issues sponsored by Stanford University.
"This is one of those moments when somebody has said, as Judge Starr has said here, that at a minimum, we should be able to agree that all this has to be out in the open so we know what is going on because as we sit there tonight, all over this area, especially in this area, of all the places in the United States, people are being asked to give huge $10 million contributions that are not going to be revealed," Feingold told the Silicon Valley audience.
Feingold praised Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) for crossing the aisle to co-author with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) new legislation intended to increase disclosure of funding sources for campaign-related spending.
The agreement between Feingold and Starr ended at Citizens United.
Pamela S. Karlan, Stanford Law School professor, said the Supreme Court "has come up with a distinction that I think no one thinks is coherent at all. And that is a distinction between contributions to candidates or parties on the one hand and spending money independently on the other."
Feingold said that, for more than 100 years, "it was the considered judgment of the people of this country through their Congress and through their president that corporations should not be able to use the money that you spend on toothpaste or a gallon of gas on a political campaign. It never happened before 2010."
Feingold said if the debate about equality and freedom of individuals is "one thing—that's a conversation we should have. It is an ongoing conversation."
He said, however, that a different problem occurs with "the ability of corporations to take money through commerce with the advantage given them by the law of limited liability protection, [which] the rest of us don't have, to dominate the political process. That's when I think people began observing an appearance of corruption."