Demos Reports Examine Money in Politics at the Supreme Court


This year won’t just mark the most expensive and big money-dominated election in U.S. history – it is also the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court case that set the basic structure of campaign finance law.

In the report titled “Buckley at 40,” Demos counsel and senior adviser Adam Lioz examines how 1976’s Buckley v. Valeo launched a vicious cycle of political, economic, and racial inequality that endures today.

Demos is a group that is “working to reduce both political and economic inequality, deploying original research, advocacy, litigation, and strategic communications to create the America the people deserve.”

In advance of the January 30, 2016 anniversary of the decision, Lioz lays out the basics of the case, examines Buckley’s legacy after four decades, and explains why it is actually more important than Citizens United – all in an accessible question-and-answer format.

“Overturning Citizens United is a great first step, but it would return us to the glory days of 2009, when the donor class still set the agenda in Washington,” said Lioz. “Buckley is the root cause of our money in politics problems – the reason billionaires can spend without limit and drown out the rest of our voices.”

In a companion piece, Lioz makes the case for why transforming the Supreme Court’s approach to money in politics is critical to achieve a fair democracy, revive basic economic opportunity, and move forward our nation’s struggle for racial equity.

“Breaking the Vicious Cycle” details the Supreme Court’s role in gutting basic protections against wealthy interests translating economic might into political power.

In it, Lioz argues that democracy must write the rules for capitalism, not the other way around. The piece also points to a path forward hinged on new constitutional arguments and impending turnover at the High Court.

“Americans want to live in a country where the strength of our voices doesn’t depend upon the size of our wallets, and we all have an equal chance to get ahead,” said Lioz. “To get there, we’ll have to rescue our Constitution from a runaway Supreme Court. We need to clarify that We the People have the power to protect our democracy from big money dominance.  This will be the defining legal battle of this generation.”

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