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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bopp and Campaign Finance

National Journal reports that the leading figure in campaign finance is not Karl Rove.

Instead, Jim Bopp operates a law firm [Bopp, Colestrom & Bostrom] and a think tank [the James Madison Center for Free Speech] out of Terre Haute, Ind., where for more than a decade he has developed the legal strategy that has systematically undermined campaign finance reform legislation, allowed for a massive influx of barely regulated money into the system and infuriated groups that press for more disclosure from candidates and their campaigns.

Virtually every major legal battle that has shaped campaign spending in the last decade has centered around Bopp’s strategy. He spearheaded the legal challenge to a Vermont law that placed stringent limits on donations to political candidates, a law the Supreme Court struck down in 2006.

Bopp helped popularize the use of Section 527 of the federal tax code, which allows organizations to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on so-called issue ads. He defended Wisconsin Right to Life, an outside organization sued by the FEC for running those advertisements in the weeks leading up to the 2004 election, an argument with which the Supreme Court agreed.

And in 2007, he brought a lawsuit for Citizens United, a case that eventually allowed outside organizations to raise and spend millions in unregulated corporate cash to influence the outcomes of elections.

“For better or worse, Jim Bopp has been at the center of most of the big fights that have taken place over the last two decades involving campaign finance reform and review of campaign finance regulation,” said Marc Elias, an attorney at Perkins Coie, whose practice represents major Democratic causes in Washington.