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Plutocrats United: Campaign Money, the Supreme Court, and the Distortion of American Elections

by Richard Hasen Yale University Press
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Pbk 256 pages
AU$32.99 NZ$34.77
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Campaign financing is one of today’s most divisive political issues. The left asserts that the electoral process is rife with corruption. The right protests that the real aim of campaign limits is to suppress political activity and protect incumbents. Meanwhile, money flows freely on both sides. In Plutocrats United, Richard Hasen argues that both left and right avoid the key issue of the new Citizens United era: balancing political inequality with free speech.


 The Supreme Court has long held that corruption and its appearance are the only reasons to constitutionally restrict campaign funds. Progressives often agree but have a much broader view of corruption. Hasen argues for a new focus and way forward: if the government is to ensure robust political debate, the Supreme Court should allow limits on money in politics to prevent those with great economic power from distorting the political process.


Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: A New American Plutocracy 1

Part One Problems

1 The Corruption Distortion 15

2 What Does Money Buy in Politics? 37

Part Two Solutions

3 The Voting Lottery 63

4 Level Up, Level Down 84

Part Three Objections

5 Censorship 107

6 The (New) Media 124

7 (Un)Intended Consequences 146

Plutocrats United: Campaign Money, the Supreme Court, and the Distortion of American Elections

By Richard L. Hasen

Copyright © 2016 by Richard L. Hasen. All rights reserved.

viii c o n t e n t s

Part Four Changing the System

8 Wrong Paths 163

9 The Last Great Hope for Reform 176

Notes 191

Index 237


"A war manual designed to equip and fortify would-be reformers for a brutal and uncertain struggle . . . but [one] that must be waged to prevent our democracy from sinking deeper and deeper into plutocracy."—Greg Sargent, Washington Post

"Eminently readable and compelling."—Lawrence Norden, The National Book Review

"Excellent . . . . [makes] the case that equality, not corruption, ought to be the justification for regulating campaign finance. . . . I agree wholeheartedly."—Lee Drutman, Vox

"An important new book."—David Cole, The Atlantic

"Hasen has written a book that prepares the intellectual groundwork that some future U.S. Supreme Court may draw on to create a new jurisprudence. . . . The potential audience for this book is wide and diverse."—Paul J. Gatz, Law Library Journal

"Plutocrats United will mark Hasen certainly as the dean of this field."—Lawrence Lessig, author of Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It

"There is no better analyst or interpreter of America's campaign finance laws and regime then Rick Hasen. Plutocrats United is Hasen at his finest: a cogent, reasoned critique of what the Supreme Court has and has not done to shape money and American politics, and a roadmap to a better system if and when there is a Court willing to respond to reason."—Norman Ornstein, co-author, It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism

"Rick Hasen is the foremost scholar working today to make the case for a robust conception of political equality in thinking about the regulation of campaign finance. In this new book he displays all of his well-recognized skills and deep learning. It is clear and readable, both scholarly and accessible, and it will be highly influential in academic and policy development communities, and in the courts. There is no more authoritative source for anyone who seeks a thorough treatment of all the reasons one might care about equality in this era of mega-donors and Super PACs."—Bob Bauer, former White House Counsel and Professor of Practice, New York University School of Law

"While others complain about the corruption of money in politics, Rick Hasen, America's leading expert on the electoral process, offers smart, innovative solutions. This book is a 'must-read' for anyone who wants to understand the roots of America's profound political inequality—and wants to do something about it."—Adam Winkler, UCLA School of Law

"Plutocrats United should become the go-to volume for anyone wanting to understand the role of money in American politics: how we got to where we are today, and a realistic assessment of the chances for improving the current situation. Hasen deftly interweaves fine-grained details with a lucid big-picture perspective. Even more impressively, he eschews simplistic solutions, recognizing that regulatory line-drawing in this area necessarily will involve a careful balancing of competing constitutional values."—Edward B. Foley, Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University

Richard L. Hasen is Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine. He lives in Studio City, CA.