tv Discussion Focuses on Role of Third Party in American Political System CSPAN December 28, 2016 10:42am-11:46am EST
c-span2. >> the presidential inauguration is friday january 20th. c-span is going to have live coverage of all the days events and ceremonies. watch live on c-span and c-span.org and listen live on the free c-span radio app. >> the new york university school of of law hosted a day long forum on the u.s. political system. in this panel experts said whether a third party can succeed in a two party system. this is about an hour.
well, good morning. on behalf of bob bower, my talented codirector of the nyu law schools legislative and regulatory process clinic, i want to well come you to the session of the forum. the program today a new american political system promises to be very interesting and perhaps provocative. this forum would not be possible without the generous support of of sidley austin. it gives me great pleasure to introduce john kuser who is a partner in the new york office. john is cohead of the lit cal practice and one of the firms
national cohairs of it's recruiting committee. a particular significance to us, john is an active alumnus of the nyu law school. [ applause ] >> thank you sally. we are discussing the addressing roles of the party, state and direction of the campaign finances law and change in the new and social media and other interesting topics. we're very honored to welcome vice president biden today and thank him for agreeing to provide his insights as the keynote speaker. we're positive that today's forum is interesting, and enlightening on the other subjects whether we're on the van guard of another political system.
it's a firm of deep tradition and been a destination of lawyers that have served through the the government. two of the partners will be moderating two of today's panels and both served in the u.s. government. rick as a member of us congress and addition to them some of the other partners were important to insuring that the forum moved forward today and those are virginia sites peter kizer and jim khol and all have serve in the high branch. we are grateful for the hard work of both sally and bob bower and they have done an
outstanding job. in addition we're grateful to dean morrison for the edition of the nyu legislation to come together and make this forum a reality. we want to thank in advance the panelists who without the forum could not be a auk ses. as sally mentioned, i'm an alumnus. so are 100 lawyers in the firm and partners. we're proud to partner with ny skpurks know that the two instructions can make a valuable service. over the 150 year history, a fundamental tenant of argue form is to support. it's form of the continuing commitment to do so, and we're
proud to be part of it. thank you. [ applause ] >> so let the program begin as the first one comes to the starges i want to introduce the moderator rick. my introductions throughout the day are going to be brief. the full biostatistics are in the programs that you should have received at the registration table and remain out there. we're going to hold the panels to roughly 50 minutes and allow ten minutes for time for questions from audience members. we have students assembled on the rails on both sides with cards and pens if you have a thought, you raise your hand and one will come and send it to you and we will be able to ask those questions. so it's wonderful to have rick here. he was a member of the u.s.
house of representatives for 28 years where he chaired the subcommittee on communications and the internet. he currently chairs the government strategy practice in the sidley austin washington office. all set. go. >> sally, thank you so much. it's a privilege to take part in the forum this morning. i want to say a word of welcome to everyone in the audience, to our first panel which focuses on the role of the political parties. the november election certainly defied the expectations of many and by almost all accounts, it was a seismic political event. what are the innovations for the political party. what role do they play in a time that super packs are prominent?
are the parties stronger or weaker than they have been historically? is the situation ripe at this point for the emerging of a third political party? how have past reforms worked? would future reforms strengthen the role of the parties and do stronger parties contribute to a stronger democracy? are the parties at risk to losing the aspects of their constituency? in order to answer these questions, we're joined today by a truly de tingished panel. i will say something about 've of them. jim is a former national counsel to the bush, cheney and romney campaigns. he is currently counsel to the republicans governor association. we're joined also by richard
pildis. professor of constitutional law at nyu. he is a lit gator and widely read author on issues concerning the structure issues concerning the structure of democratic institutions. his acclaimed book launched at an an entirely new field of study in law schools across the country. and we're joined by david keating executive director of the club for growth. he previously served as executive vice president of the national taxpayers union and executive director for americans for fair taxation and also known as the man who invented the superpacks. the full bios for your panelists are founded in the program and if you'd like to learn more about them i would invite to you read on.
it's been suggested that donald trump whose positions certainly cross traditional party lines, part of his platform evolves from republican principles, part from democratic principles, part pretty much his own is truly perhaps the first independent american president. he staged a takeover of one of the political parties. is that an accurate description of what happened? and i'll expand the question by asking did the democratic party also come close to a hostile takeover by bernie sanders and his supporters and what are the implications of these very unusual events for the future of our political parties?
that's fine if that's where you'd like to start. >> if you said that people didn't anticipate it happening, i do think donald trump has succeeded in triangulating all the party alignments. it's very tough to know what the base of the party is, what the core constituencies are. i take a little bit of exception to the assumption in the question. if you look at the way donald trump has named his first 15 cabinet people, which is actually a fairly traditional lot, you have three generals in national security positions, you have four billionaires, we're generally perceived to be the party of the billionaires although we can argue with that, then you have seven, really eight people who are sort of people who are loyalists to
donald trump but also have movement conservative credentials. so that actually looks like a pretty traditional republican government at least in the first 15 of the 660 people who need to be nominated by the senate. but just to make one other point, is that i do think in this political cycle, the party structure splintered a lot more than it has in the past. and you are seeing an evolutionary period that really started in the 2004 election, where the party structures are much more diffuse, i think that means it's much tougher to have principled governing coalitions in the congress. i think you have senate and house campaign committees that take care of u.s. senate and u.s. house people. you have a governors association, an attorneys general association. it is not the democratic and republican national committees
who are the core political boots on the ground, money to the candidate, tv ads on the air, that they were prior to the passage of mccain/feingold. so you do have an evolving and changing party structure. >> rick, your view on whether there was a hostile takeover of a major political party. >> the larger framework in which i would sort of situate what's going on here, what ben has been describing, we're seeing what in my view is the political fragmentation of american democracy. but not just of american democracy. of democracies around the world. what i mean by political fragmentation is that the traditional sources that organized governance and organized the political process and elections have had their power and their authority diffused in various ways.
partly it's been diffused externally in the form of all the super pacs and all the outside groups that were spawned by the mccain/feingold law, not citizens united. we've seen a diffusion of power auto way from the parties to these outside groups. there has also been an internal diffusion of power within the parties in the sense that the party leadership no longer has the kind of control over the members that the leadership once had. so individual members of congress are much more independent entrepreneurs than they used to be. and that's how i view both donald trump and bernie sanders. i view them as independent free agents. sanders of course is an independent, never was a member of the democratic party, isn't a member of the democratic party. trump was a republican -- a democrat until about ten minutes ago and then decided it was advantageous to run as a republican.
and the parties have become so hollowed out that it's now possible for independent free actors, free agents, to capture the party label for their own purposes and their own agendas. and i think that's happened for two general kinds of reasons. one is institutional changes we've made. so particularly with respect to the nomination process for choosing the candidates, we have completely taken that process since the 1970s out of the hands of the parties. we've stripped the parties of any meaningful role whatsoever in that process, when we went to a system of pure primary dominated or populist selection processes for choosing the nominees. surprise surprise, when you shift the nomination process to one that is a completely populist-controlled process through the primaries, you're going to get much more populist kinds of candidates, finding it easier to emerge from that process.
and there are other changes in the institution we've made. the second set of changes are cultural and technological changes which we're also all aware of. so the communications revolution and the technology revolution has undermined the authority of all sorts of organizations, whether it's the parties, churches, academic institutions, corporations. it's now possible to bypass the traditional organizational structures. that's why people like ted cruz and liz warren, one year into the senate, become two of the most powerful figures in their parties in a way that was inconceivable for someone like lyndon johnson, as powerful as he was, you know, in our politics in the past. it's now possible for people to find their national constituencies through social media, to raise money through the technology that's available,
and free themselves from the traditional sources of control that the party has exerted and the traditional support the party has provided. i think what we're seeing is this political fragmentation that empowers lots of individual actors, strips the mediating institutions like the parties of a significant role. and i think somewhat inevitably is going to be fueling more extremism and more polarization. >> let's take off from one of the points you mentioned, rick, and that is the fact that, with super pacs now directly funding candidates, and candidates looking to other sources external to the party in order to raise lots of their funds, david keating, do you believe that the parties are still relevant as funders? that's been a traditional role of parties. how damaging is it to the political parties that perhaps that role is eclipsed to a significant extent by external
funding sources, and do you think parties perhaps have been weakened by virtue of the fact that candidates can now so directly communicate with voters on their own? i'm reminded of mr. trump's twitter following of something like 48 million people that gives him instant access to a very large part of the electorate. what is the effect of those changes on political parties? >> i'll see if i can remember all the questions. first, so my audience here and elsewhere isn't confused, i'm president for the center for competitive politics. we're a group that works to defend human rights. i used to work at the club for growth years ago. also i want to make it clear to people, super pacs cannot directly fund the candidates. super pacs are independent groups only. they can't coordinate with the candidates. they can't coordinate with the parties. there's a long list of rules that i'm sure, you know, ben and
i could give a whole seminar on those someday if people were interested. these are independent groups, they're basically people getting together with other groups in the united states and talking to voters and urging them to vote for or against particular candidates. i think on the previous question, i agree with virtually everything that rick and ben have said. i think in terms of the individual members, congress, and candidates, they've always been to some degree entrepreneurs. otherwise they wouldn't have gotten elected in the first place. but i agree that changes in campaign finance laws and the advent of media and the atomization of media has made it even more likely that these candidates can emerge and spring out of nowhere. in terms of the parties, i don't think the right approach is to somehow blame independent
groups. i mean, these are groups of citizens, after all. i think the real problem is that the campaign finance laws have undercut the ability of parties to organize americans and speak out together. and if you look at especially -- i mean, the democratic party is hurting right now in a big way. you look at their bench at the state level, the state legislative level, the gubernatorial positions they hold, and it's been a wipeout in over the last eight years. and one of the big factors i think that's really hurting parties that people don't talk about very often is the incredible complexity of the campaign finance laws, especially on state parties. much of the political activity of state parties now has to struggle not only under state laws and regulations which are
obviously bad in many places, but the federal laws. a lot of these state parties are just crushed by regulation. i think we've got to simplify campaign finance regulation in a big way. and i think to the extent we can lift contribution limits, raise them, lift them, maybe take them off altogether on political parties, that would be much more important, that's a much better way to go rather than trying to figure out how to, you know, push down independent groups. >> ben ginsberg, let's continue that discussion. what do you see being very constructive in terms of the change in law or practice by the parties that would make the funding of campaigns by the parties more effective? for example, each of the national parties has an independent expenditure committee.
if you count all the various ones that are in existence, it's about six in total. does having these parties spend significant numbers in isolation, without coordinating with the central party unit, a sensible way to do things? would it strengthen the roles of the parties as funders if they were able to coordinate more directly at least internally? your views on what could happen in terms of making the parties more significant in terms of funding campaigns. >> to answer that, i think you need to take a stark look at the system as it exists today, which is in limiting candidates and political parties in what they're allowed to raise, but with none of those limits, stretching back from buckley versus vallejo on individuals, and a series of decisions on corporations, trade association action, and then citizens united.
you're limited in influencing what candidates can do and not limiting basically special interest groups across the spectrum who can raise unlimited amounts of money from sources the candidates and parties can't. so you really have the system where the candidates have the agendas set by outside group as opposed to being the loudest voice in the debate. so if you were going to help strengthen the parties, you would look at the three core functions that parties historically have performed. they've raised money for candidates. it's no longer done primarily by the parties. it's not done by super pacs and independent expenditure groups, but it is done by large membership groups on the left and right who will mobilize their members to give contribution to the candidates they likely. so the candidates will go to special interest groups rather than the political parties. they'll owe their allegiance not to the broad governing coalitions of the political
parties but to the particular groups that help fund them. the mobilization efforts these days, as david correctly pointed out, really are not done by state parties, because that's now a federalized process with limited contributions. so if i want to put out a message as a state party that says, vote democratic, i now have to use all federal dollars. i can't use state dollars, even though that message indisputably helps state candidates as well. federal dollars are limited, each state has its own set of laws. so that has in turn been outsourced either to campaigns or to special interest groups to do the mobilization and ground game. and the third core function of parties was always doing the messaging to help their candidates. then too, outside groups have a lot more money to put into that process than the parties do. the parties are limited in the
amount that they can spend directly on their candidates. it's the coordinated expenditure limits. it's not been increased except for inflation in many years. certainly not kept up proportionately with the cost of campaigns. so the parties do have these independent expenditure units, still much smaller than what outside groups can do. they're not end spent expe expenditure units are not allowed to talk to the core group, so there's bizarre messaging that takes place. sometimes you get party committee independent expenditure messages that are not what the campaign and the candidate would like. so it's a very sort of messy and nonsensical system if in fact your goal at the end of the day is to have members who get elected, pay some degree of adherence to core party principles in a big tent, as opposed to individual narrow special interest groups that are now the core of funding
candidates. >> rick, your comments on whether there are constructive changes in campaign finance that would strengthen parties? >> i do have some suggestions. but i actually want to kind of push this to a more cultural or conceptual level for a second. because i think so many americans, particularly younger americans, hate political parties, have contempt for the political parties, you know, you see the figures about the plurality of voters under the age of 35 register as independents, not as one of the party members. i think in this discussion it's important to step back a little bit and say more about why the parties are actually so important despite all the awful things that are true about them. and one standard -- one standard point is that unless you have
strong political parties, the private interests are going to carve up the government, because individual politicians who have to stand there on their own, without a strong party apparatus, are extremely vulnerable, particularly in the united states. they are more vulnerable than politicians in any other country, especially in the u.s. house, as you know. they have to run two elections every two years, a primary and a general election. they mostly raise their money independently. so they have to do that. so they are constantly vulnerable. and what strong political parties that can take concerted positions and then defend their members who are following that party position can do is protect these vulnerable members when they take difficult votes. the second thing is, in our separated power system, the system simply can't function unless we have a certain degree of compromising typically across party lines, unless you have
unified government large enough to overcome a filibuster in the senate. and that compromising is very likely to come, in my view, from party leaders, who if they're strong enough can make these compromises, be as tough as they are, bring their members along and protect those members. so the fragmentation that i'm talking about makes our system also not just more extreme, but more dysfunctional and more paralyzed. so when we talk about strengthening parties, i think it's important for people to understand why it's so important to be doing that. and i think that along the same lines of the measures that ben has described, trying to channel the flow of money into the parties and away from these outside groups, although if people still want to give, they should be free to do it. but we've created all these incentives that force them to go
to the outside groups, including people who would rather be giving the money to political parties. we can allow greater coordination between the parties and the candidates. we can allow greater coordination across national and state parties. and here is, you know, an extreme suggestion, just to kind of get people to think that framework, when we talk about public financing in the few states that have it, and there's more interest in that in the various states, no interest at the national level, it's always public financing where the money goes to individual candidates. we could think about public financing where a lot more of the money went to the political parties, which is actually the way public financing works in most democracies, which have public financing. so empowering the parties through a public finance system that doesn't get to be so individual candidate-centered but tries to empower these organizations that i think are
absolutely essential in any healthy democracy, but particularly ours with our separated power system. >> david, back to you. what do you think about allowing more coordination internally within the parties in terms of how the funding flows? is there harm in that? or do you still prefer that the external role take prominence? >> i think it's amazing that we say to political parties they can't coordinate with their candidates. i mean, who came up with that idea? it makes no -- i mean, it really makes no sense. a party is going to corrupt its own candidates? it's silly. so i think they should take the coordination limits off completely, especially if we have the contribution limits that we have today. but even so, there's lots of things you could do, i think, if people are concerned about the ability to raise super large chunks of money, then say to the candidates and the elected
officials, they can't make the ask for the big chunks of money, let the parties coordinate with their candidates. there's a bigger problem, and i think rick's analysis is very much on point here, but there's also a tradition that's developed in the parties itself. there's only so much the parties can do. they can protect their own candidates in the general election, but when it comes to the primary election, there is a lot of internal pressures on the parties not to get involved in primary races. and it's interesting to watch that politically. i mean, in the presidential race, look what happened when all the wikileaks emails came out. it was clear that, yes, the dnc was on the side of clinton behind the scenes. and it caused a huge reaction. last year, i think it was last year, when senator mcconnell
wanted to make it easier for parties to do things, there was a big blowup among the tea party type republicans in the house, because they were concerned the parties would be able to intervene in primaries, and they were saying, no, we don't want to pass this. i've seen this re-occur at the state level as well in terms of liberating parties, a lot of the concern from the more right wing republicans is they don't trust the party establishment and they didn't want the parties to be able to intervene in primaries. there's a tradition that they not do so, but there's also been fights to, you know, oppose the legal means for parties to intervene in primaries. so that would also solve half of rick's problems, if we loosen rules -- we allow parties to coordinate with their candidates. but there's still going to be a lot of pressure to not protect these vulnerable people in a primary situation. >> we seem to have something of a consensus that more coordination within the parties
would be sensible. we saw something pretty unusual in this presidential race on the republican side, many people who would be defined as traditional business persons deciding not to support the republican presidential nominee, making public statements to that effect, many others who have nothing to say publicly or privately at least expressing a lot of discomfort in the way things were going on the republican side. on the democratic side, we saw people who classically have been democrats, blue collar workers, people living in rural areas who historically in many places have been the core of the democratic party, defecting en masse to support donald trump and his campaign. so what does this say about the
future of coalitions within both parties? is there some risk that these core coalitions to defect, and are the conditions ripe for a third party to arise based on these factories? i'll make this a jump ball. who wants to go first? >> the third party angle, on the third party angle, as much as i would want to see a third party, i've one of these people who has been registered as an independent for a long time, i don't particularly like a lot of what both parties have to say. i just don't think it's possible under the campaign finance regime we have today, to get a third party going. i'm not saying it's impossible. but it's difficult to start with politically. and when you look at the campaign finance rules, i think it's even more difficult. so no, i don't see that happening. to me, one of the interesting things about the last couple of -- to shift to the other part of your question, what's really interesting to me is, there was a lot of discussion that the republican party was
going to go so far off to the right, it would become irrelevant. and with the democratic shifts occurring, the republican party might go, you know, disappear in some fashion. but i actually think this whole script has been flipped. there's a huge amount of upside for the republican party with trump. i'm not predicting it. don't get me -- i don't want to make people think i'm predicting it's going to happen. but i think the democrats are in serious trouble, one, from a lack of farm team, but two, trump has been able to break through into very important democratic constituencies and flip states, we've already seen west virginia over the last ten years go from a totally solid democratic stronghold, now the republicans control both houses of the legislature, and it's voted for republicans solidly in several campaigns.
so -- and then you look at the other core democratic -- and some of the core constituencies, hispanics, the african-american community, i think it's quite possible, i know this is hard to imagine right now, but i think it's entirely possible trump could make inroads there as well. and we've already seen him make inroads into the working class. so the democratic party, especially if it continues to shift to the, you know, senator warren/bernie sanders left, could be in real trouble if trump is -- turns out to be a terrific politician. and we simply don't know what will happen with that. >> so you're talking about centrifugal force within the democratic party possibly throwing off a major coalition or big components of it. what about in the republican party, will the business community, long the establishment within the republican party, remain entirely within the fold? >> i think they probably will,
simply because of the democratic party, if you look at the policies, a lot of things the party and elected officials have done over the last decade, as bad as republicans might get on many issues important to the business community, the democrats aren't giving them anything either. they really don't have anywhere else to go. >> rick, your thoughts? >> think about how much donald trump's coalition represents what had been the old kind of union democratic coalition, in terms of substantive policy issues, right? against free trade, restrictions on immigration, protections of entitlements. i think that we're in the midst of something we obviously don't understand yet, but absolutely, i think we could be in the midst of a significant reconfiguration of both political parties in a way that would unscramble the
polarized structure that we've had over the last 30 to 40 years. i think that democrats make a big mistake in assuming, as some of the analysts have post-trump, that well, the demographics still favor the democratic party over time because the hispanic population is growing, the minority population is growing. that assumes that these groups are going to continue to vote at the same rates for the democratic party that they have been recently. i think if the republican party manages to cement itself as the party of the working class, which is the pitch trump is trying to make, i think, adopting a lot of traditional working class issues, you know, once the incendiary rhetoric and the polarizing rhetoric is not there because some other candidate who is a republican
carries on down that path, it would not surprise me to see other working class voters beyond white working class voters moving in that direction. trump already got two points more of the latino vote than romney did to many people's amazement. and the protectionism, the various kinds of things trump is doing, the anti-trade agenda, that may very well push more and more of the business community towards the democratic party. it's been moving in that direction to some extent already. now, i don't know how to envision how these coalitions will or won't come together. but what's happening right now is the biggest disruption to the established set of coalitional structures that we've had since reagan's election, and it's going to have profound effects on both parties as they struggle
to redefine their identity in response to whatever policy initiatives actually emerge from this administration. >> i think both parties' coalitions are under an awful lot of stress and strain from the historical norms. certainly the triangulation that donald trump has achieved by surprising everyone and winning those states in the upper midwest with noncollege educated white blue collar workers is absolutely true. but the other thing that donald trump showed is that you don't need the old three legs of the reagan stool to win a nomination and then ultimately an election as a republican. so you do see a number of strains there. it seems to me the democratic coalition is equally strained in its own way. but largely between a donor class that has wanted candidates to stress things like climate change and social issues and the
union blue collar base, the historical base you mentioned, that clearly was not terribly interested in these issues. you've got a country that if you look at the red and blue maps is blue on the coasts and pretty solid red everywhere else with the exception of a couple of metropolitan areas in the midwest. every leader of the democratic party, chuck schumer in the senate, nancy pelosi and steny hoyer in the house, are from the coasts. and so i think that's a huge change and a huge strain. and it seems to me the best legislative strategy that the democrats have, and what i think should worry both the trump administration and the republican leadership, is the
ability to triangulate on policies that donald trump favors that are not core republican conservative issues. and you've already seen that a little bit in the back and forth on the trade deals. you've seen it in -- when you talk about infrastructure, something that democrats have historicalry reported and donald trump certainly supports, but the budget deficit hawks amongst republicans are going to take a pretty different view of massive infrastructure spending. what our footprint should be overseas is also another one of those issues that can be triangulated. and just wait until carried interest comes up as an issue, if you want to see some interesting strains. so i would agree with the point that you never know great change when you're in the middle of it, and we may be in the middle of it and not fully cognizant of how great that change is.
>> can i just -- >> sure. >> -- offer one stat stick that kind of drives ben's point home. i put together on the numbers for the votes for clinton and trump in brooklyn, manhattan, and california. when you take brooklyn, manhattan, and california out of the election, donald trump won the rest of the country by nearly 3 million votes. so you say the coasts. just manhattan, brooklyn, and california gives you that picture. then you probably know some of this data, if you look across the rest of the country, because i think it's a mistake to focus just on the presidential election to understand the struggles that the parties are going through, and particularly the democratic party. 66 of 99 state legislatures now controlled by the republican party. 33 or 34 governorships controlled by the republican party. donald trump won virtually every county that obama one only once, which was about 207 counties.
of the 709 counties owe pa ma won twice, donald trump won to% of those. we can go on and on. donald trump won ohio by 450,000 votes. that is staggering. so the problems about the democratic party and its base in new york city and california and a couple of other places is a very serious problem that the party has to be confronting, as the republican party deals with the incredible internal struggle that it's going to be going through under president trump. >> one historical anomaly that you'll see this time usually in a midterm election, the party in power who holds the white house loses seats. by a chance, the senate map next time is tilted republican.
ten of the democratic incumbents who are up are in states won by trump. 24 of the 34 seats, something like that, are currently held by democrats. this late in the election cycle, the congressional districts are pretty locked in. so that if you are looking at it now, you would not see the sort of historical course correction that comes in mid-terms. >> and let's actually link this to the point about state parties that david was raising. because i think this is an unusual connection for people to see. one of the reasons the democratic party or the clinton campaign may have been blissfully unaware of what was going on in places like wisconsin, is because of what david was talking about, and bob powers taught me this point. because the state parties just don't exist in any robust form in a lot of places now, the campaigns, at least on the democratic side, are run out of a center in brooklyn with lots of data analytics, but not really connected to what's going
on out there in wisconsin or in michigan. they're not getting the input that they used to get from state political parties and key figures locally in the same way. and the decline of the state parties may be connected to the way these campaigns are run, what they miss about what's going on with big blocs of voters. i just think it's interesting to draw that connection as a thread through this discussion. >> in the election just passed, the democrats basically had no message directed toward rural areas. and mr. trump focused on the rural vote intensely and had a message tailored primarily for people who are blue collar in rural areas. and the results were pretty dramatic. he carried the rural counties all across america. the democrats, as part of their effort to regain prominence and
to solidify their historic coalitions, need to develop a rural message. what could it be? and can that be done consistently with the democrats continuing their strong appeal to people in the metropolitan areas across the country? who wants to try that? >> you're all looking at me. i have no idea. [ laughter ] i'm not sure anyone knows. but i think it goes back to the problem of the state parties. they're really -- they've been hollowed out. if you're going to develop a message for the rural areas, you've got to have people in the
rural areas and you have to have some functioning party structure there. so, you know, i really think it's not only a matter of resources, but it's a matter of -- this idea of federalizing all the messaging at the state level is just a -- i mean, if you were sitting around in a laboratory saying, what can we do to destroy state and local parties, what can we do to make it difficult for volunteers to get together for parties, someone says, i've got a great idea, let's come up with something, a set of rules that no one can understand unless they have people like ben ginsberg advising them at every step of the way. ben is a very talented fellow. they're not all -- you don't see ben ginsberg in some rural county somewhere that knows federal election campaign regulations and is willing to do it on a voluntary basis. and even if he did, they still wouldn't be able to follow the advice, most likely. it's hard to overemphasize how bad the situation is, generally. >> let's situate this in the broader context of what's going on globally. because this is a problem that's affecting democracy everywhere. it's a big part of the vote in brexit. it's the rural areas that are
alienated. it's a big part of the vote that just took place in italy, rejecting the referendum. it's the rural areas. what has happened over the last 20 or 30 years, for whatever set of reasons, is there's been more and more concentration of power, financial power, cultural power, political power, in the dominant cities. and rural voters, whether they're in england, france, italy, the united states, feel increasingly alienated from power, ignored by those in power, condescended to by those in power, not responded to by those in power. and this is a global phenomenon that has to do with the transformation of how people live. so it isn't just a problem here for better or worse. it's a profound problem for democracy across the world these days. >> we only have a few minutes
left. we would like to offer an opportunity for anyone in the audience who has a question. so sally is behind me, she's going to moderate this portion. >> i've got a series of questions. this won't quite be one-second answer, but if you can keep your answers short, because there's a lot of interest in this. the campaign finance laws were primarily enacted to diminish corruption. no one on the panel has even mentioned corruption when discussing them. were we wrong or have we just given up? anyone? >> the reality is the standard was corruption or the appearance of corruption. so there have been precious few cases of actual corruption. but a lot of newspaper articles written about the appearance of corruption. and in effect, even if
corruption is -- or the appearance of corruption is what you're trying to start, you now have a system where the candidates are limited in what they can say, and special interest groups can set the terms of the debate, dominate the debate, make the candidates talk about their issues. so i'm not sure that even if that was a virtuous standard to begin with, it's been proven in fact, and certainly that as a rationale has led to what i think is a really distorted system now. >> other comments? >> i don't think -- there's no evidence that contribution limits have reduced corruption and there's no evidence that contribution limits have increased trust in government and many studies have been done to track this at the federal but especially at the state level, where states change over time. there's just no evidence. and i think what people need to do is ask themselves, today, do we have a better, less corrupt class of politician than we had,
you know, for the first 200 years of our nation's history? and i don't think there's any evidence that we do. >> this goes to a subject which was discussed. given the presence of such different candidates during the primary, should party leadership continue playing a neutral role in primaries rather than unflinchingly rallying around certain nominees, or would they be better served throwing their resources more overtly behind the favorites, in other words come clean with what they want? >> i think that's to you. >> it's a good question, if they're fighting over it. >> i am the party hack. so i mean, my question is, what resources? i'm not quite sure how parties were capable of weighing in on the presidential level. and then when you get down to the senate and house levels,
there actually were attempts by the leadership or the super pacs affiliated with leadership or groups like the chamber of commerce to sort of go up against tea party people who won in 2010. so i think it depends what level you're talking on. and on the national committee level, real hard, not much resources, not much ability to impact it, more on the senate and house with incumbents. >> let me just add a quick point. i find it remarkable, because people know, you know, i have been involved in politics, and they keep asking me, what's wrong with the republicans or what's wrong with the democrats, why are they coming up with candidates like this? and i think there's this impression in the public that somehow the parties can control everything. that's about as far from the
truth as the reality. so the impression is almost exactly the opposite of what the reality is. >> and this goes back to my opening comment about the change in the way the primaries work. just think about how bizarre this is. the democratic party cannot keep an independent from running for the democratic party nomination. in fact if the democratic national committee tilts the deck against the independent, that's a scandal. and think about this on the republican side. you have republican -- longstanding republican office-holders, senators, people with national security experience, foreign policy experience. how was the selection process done for who showed up on the main stage for the debates? by popular opinion polls the media ran. the party had no control over any of that. so i think one of the things i'm
suggesting, that won't happen, but that we think about legitimizing a greater role for the party in selecting or participating in the process of narrowing the field or selecting nominees who run under the party label, as was the case for most of american history until the 1970s. >> let me ask a question, which is actually linked to a panel later this afternoon. but you've all talked a lot about raising money and the candidates getting money and the parties having money or not having money as the case may be. is money as important to campaigns when advertising seems to be eclipsed by communications through twitter, reddit, et cetera? >> i'm not sure i totally agree
with this. we had a fascinating program on that at stanford on friday. among other things, the trump campaign said they spent an equal amount of money on digital communications as broadcast communications. so i'm not sure that the message is being driven so much by those independent sites as much as campaigns slowly shifting to actually spending the money on digital, which of course the media hasn't really figured out how to track. so those spending numbers are not immediately visible to anyone. but there is a change in the way campaigns are communicating. i believe it's still being driven by the exchanges. >> so money still matters? >> money still matters. >> yeah, it still matters, but it's definitely not the only thing. i mean, we look -- jeb bush had the most money initially. what did he get, four delegates? i think he set a new record on spending per delegate. so money can help deliver a message, but if people don't like the message or don't agree with it, you're not going to be
able to spend tons of money and buy an election, basically. but you have to also give donald trump, you know, credit. he knew how to get an enormous amount of earned media, obviously not all of it was good, but when you looked early on, there was a very interesting study that was done on the value of the media. and the amount that trump had from so-called earned media dwarfed all the other candidates. >> and he spent relatively little money during the nominating process. >> right. >> this election showed the candidates matter more than money, but the money still matters. you have to have enough to sort of reach a threshold. >> very good. does public financing of parties present first amendment issues,
because the government is supporting these two specific viewpoints or whatever comes from the campaigns? >> i don't think it raises a first amendment issue. there are concerns i could imagine having about it. but presumably the way the money would be allocated would be based on some formula that has to do with the percentage of votes that party got in the prior election. i mean, we had public financing for the presidential election for many years until our friend, president obama, not all of our friend. >> it was a useful exercise. >> you know, blew that system up by deciding to go outside of it. there was no first amendment issue about providing funds to the two major parties. you know, there are rules about access to the ballot for political parties based on their
needing to get over 5% in the previous governor's election and the like. that's how the formulas for public financing would work. there are difficulties in making a system like that work. i don't want to understate them. first amendment issues i think are not -- >> all right. well, i think you're wrong about that. i think there really are serious first amendment problems. and obviously a lot will depend on how it's designed. but i mean, the whole idea that the two political parties can basically get u.s. government funds to subsidize their operations, what about the parties that are trying to emerge? how do you write a rule for that? to me that's very difficult to start with. but to me, even a more fundamental problem is, how do you handle the enforcement process? people that like all this campaign finance regulation, i
don't think anyone has a good answer for how to fairly enforce these laws. the best -- the least bad system that has been developed is the federal election commission, where no political party can control the enforcement process. and a lot of people don't think that works particularly well. but if you look at what happened in the irs, where there was clearly ideologically based decisions made about tax exempt applications, how do we build an enforcement process that can't be captured by one party to tilt elections? and it's not a matter of how much money the parties get. a much more effective way to undercut a party is to come out with a last-minute scandal or last-minute enforcement action saying one party cheated. i mean, the clinton campaign thinks the fbi director cost her the election. and that was -- she was never even indicted. but the mere fact that an enforcement person said something new about her emails ten days out from the campaign,
a lot of people think that was the reason why they lost. so to me that's an important first amendment issue. >> these critiques are about any system for enforcing any campaign finance laws. this isn't a criticism that's specific to public financing. it applies to whatever regulations you have. >> but that's my point. >> so that's an argument for -- >> there isn't a -- >> first of all -- >> there should be a lot fewer of these regulations in the first place. but nevertheless, that's part of designing these systems in a first amendment way. and most of the people that have proposed these types of systems want a very strong figure making the enforcement decisions. but how do you ensure that person isn't going to tilt it in some way? it's a very difficult problem to solve. i don't think anyone's solved it. >> the states -- look, we'll see
what happens. this kind of reform always takes place first at the state level, it's always been the history of most kinds of reforms in the political process. there are more and more states that are moving to public financing systems. we'll see what kind of record of experience we have with that so far. the enforcement problems you're raising have not been an issue at the state level in maine or arizona. >> but look at what happened in wisconsin. no, wait a second. in wisconsin, we had a campaign finance law that a prosecutor had this john doe process. he conducted pre-dawn raids on essentially every important conservative group and activist in the state, shut down the entire critique from the conservative side or support for the governor's policies. >> but again, that isn't a public financing system. that's just an ordinary system that we have in the federal system and in most states. >> look at the new york mayoral race, a lot of people think de blasio won because of the enforcement process. >> you're going to have more
enforcement which leads to the problem. and the states that have put in public financing have an overwhelmingly blue tint to them. and just while we're looking for solutions to the party problems -- >> i don't think that's true of arizona. >> no, it's not worked and it's getting peeled back and not working. that was the by and large of the comment. but i think the chances of what amounts to the food stamps for politicians going in on a federal level is like -- is like slim and nil. so if you want a solution for strengthening parties, you need to look beyond the notion that government handouts are going to help your favorite politicians, who we've all been saying are not held in particularly high
regard by the public anyway. >> and that's why we won't get bipartisan support for public financing at the federal level. >> on this somewhat contentious note, i need to say that our time has expired for this panel. i think they've done a terrific job, very informative, let's give them a round of applause. [ applause ] while congress is on break, during prime time, we're showing american history tv programs normally seen only on the weekens. tonight a look at world war ii. it starts at 8:00 eastern with spies and codebreaker, followed by the fbi investigation into a nazi spy ring, and world war ii veterans on american resistance in paris and the start of what is now the cia. american history tv prime time tonight here on c-span3.