|Chair||Patricia Bauman and Robert A. Atkins|
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law (NYU Law) is a nonprofit law and public policy institute. The organization is named after Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. Generally considered liberal,the Brennan Center advocates for a number of progressive public policy positions, including raising the minimum wage, opposing restrictive voter ID laws, and calling for public funding of elections. The organization opposed the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. FEC , which held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent political expenditures by nonprofits.
The organization's stated mission is to "work to hold our political institutions and laws accountable to the twin American ideals of democracy and equal justice for all."Its president is Michael Waldman, former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton.
The Brennan Center for Justice was founded in 1995 by the family and former law clerks of Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr., whom The Washington Post called "the progressive voice of the modern court".Justice Brennan's idea of a living constitution figures largely into the center's work. The Brennan Center started with an initial grant by the Carnegie Corporation of New York of $25,000 in 1996. The Carnegie Corporation in years since has donated over $3,650,000. During the selection process of what school to center operations from, the Brennan Center selected NYU Law out of a choice of three schools, with the other two being Harvard University and Georgetown University. Brennan Center for Justice works with non-partisan VoteRiders to spread state-specific information on voter ID requirements.
The Brennan Center is part think tank, part public interest law firm, and part advocacy group. The organization is involved in issues such as opposing voter ID laws that it believes unduly restrict voter registration, and other barriers to registration and voting, and advocates for redistricting reform and campaign finance reform.
The Brennan Center's work is divided into three programs—Democracy, Justice, and Liberty & National Security.Past programs focused on criminal justice, poverty, and economic justice. The organization has focus on issues both at the national level in the United States but also at the state and local levels of government.
The Brennan Center opposes mass incarceration and produces research on causes of violent crime in the United States.The Brennan Center has represented several detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and also U.S. citizens or legal residents held as unlawful enemy combatants. Attorneys from the Brennan Center challenged a U.S. President's authority to declare a prisoner to be an unlawful enemy combatant in the war on terror. They have also challenged the U.S. Congress's power to deny habeas corpus to such prisoners.
The Brennan Center assisted in drafting and enacting the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA). The law banned soft money contributions to political campaigns. The organization helped Senator Dick Durbin write the Fair Elections Now Act.
The Brennan Center advocated for the passage in 2010 of New York's law ending prison-based gerrymandering, and was part of a coalition of organizations that sought to defend that law from a court challenge.The Brennan Center advocates for the restoration of felon voting rights.
The Brennan Center represented plaintiffs Margarita López Torres, other unsuccessful judicial candidates, and Common Cause, in a lawsuit that challenged the way New York state trial judge candidates gain access to the ballot. They prevailed in the U.S. District Court and in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. In 2007, attorneys from the Brennan Center argued N.Y. State Bd. of Elections v. Lopez Torres before the United States Supreme Court. In 2008, the court ruled for the state.
In 2015, the Brennan Center submitted an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, urging the state not to overturn John Doe law, which allows the state to conduct criminal investigations in secret.
The Brennan Center has been tracking states' legislation on voter ID laws and other barriers to voter registration and voting to determine whether there is undue burden carried by certain communities. Numerous lawsuits have been brought against states in such cases. By August 1, 2016, rulings in five cases: Ohio, Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, overturned certain voter ID and other provisions, requiring states to make alternatives acceptable for the November 2016 election cycle.The Brennan Center research has also indicated that instances of voter fraud by citizens and non-citizens is very rare.
Campaign finance laws in the United States have been a contentious political issue since the early days of the union. The most recent major federal law affecting campaign finance was the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) of 2002, also known as "McCain-Feingold". Key provisions of the law prohibited unregulated contributions to national political parties and limited the use of corporate and union money to fund ads discussing political issues within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary election; However, provisions of BCRA limiting corporate and union expenditures for issue advertising were overturned by the Supreme Court in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life.
The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, commonly known as the McCain–Feingold Act or BCRA, is a United States federal law that amended the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, which regulates the financing of political campaigns. Its chief sponsors were senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and John McCain (R-AZ). The law became effective on 6 November 2002, and the new legal limits became effective on January 1, 2003.
A 527 organization or 527 group is a type of U.S. tax-exempt organization organized under Section 527 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. A 527 group is created primarily to influence the selection, nomination, election, appointment or defeat of candidates to federal, state or local public office.
The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 is the primary United States federal law regulating political campaign fundraising and spending. The law originally focused on creating limits for campaign spending on communication media, adding additional penalties to the criminal code for election law violations, and imposing disclosure requirements for federal political campaigns. The Act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on February 7, 1972.
McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, 540 U.S. 93 (2003), is a case in which the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of most of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), often referred to as the McCain–Feingold Act.
Elections in the United States are held for government officials at the federal, state, and local levels. At the federal level, the nation's head of state, the president, is elected indirectly by the people of each state, through an Electoral College. Today, these electors almost always vote with the popular vote of their state. All members of the federal legislature, the Congress, are directly elected by the people of each state. There are many elected offices at state level, each state having at least an elective governor and legislature. There are also elected offices at the local level, in counties, cities, towns, townships, boroughs, and villages; as well as for special districts and school districts which may transcend county and municipal boundaries.
A publicly funded election is an election funded with money collected through income tax donations or taxes as opposed to private or corporate funded campaigns. It is a policy initially instituted after Nixon for candidates to opt into publicly funded presidential campaigns via optional donations from tax returns. It is an attempt to move toward a one voice, one vote democracy, and remove undue corporate and private entity dominance.
Campaign finance in the United States is the financing of electoral campaigns at the federal, state, and local levels by contributions from individuals, corporations, political action committees, and sometimes the government. In 2020, nearly $14 billion was spent on federal election campaigns in the United States -- "making it the most expensive campaign in U.S. history", "more than double" what was spent in the 2016 election. Critics complain that following a number of Supreme Court decisions -- Citizens United v. FEC (2010) in particular—the "very wealthy" are now allowed to spend unlimited amounts on campaigns, and to prevent voters from knowing who is trying to influence them. Consequently, as of at least 2022, critics allege "big money dominates U.S. political campaigns to a degree not seen in decades" and is "drowning out the voices of ordinary Americans."
Burt Neuborne is the Norman Dorsen Professor of Civil Liberties at New York University School of Law and the founding legal director of the Brennan Center for Justice.
Electoral reform in the United States refers to efforts to change American elections and the electoral system used in the United States.
James Bopp Jr. is an American conservative lawyer. He is most known for his work associated with election laws, anti-abortion model legislation, and campaign finance.
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), was a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States regarding campaign finance laws and free speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It was argued in 2009 and decided in 2010. The court held 5-4 that the free speech clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for political campaigns by corporations, including nonprofit corporations, labor unions, and other associations.
Campaign Legal Center (CLC) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) government watchdog group in the United States. CLC supports strong enforcement of United States campaign finance laws. Trevor Potter, former Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission, is CLC's founding president.
Voter ID laws in the United States are laws that require a person to provide some form of official identification before they are permitted to register to vote, receive a ballot for an election, or to actually vote in elections in the United States.
Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U.S. 529 (2013), was a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States regarding the constitutionality of two provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965: Section 5, which requires certain states and local governments to obtain federal preclearance before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices; and Section 4(b), which contains the coverage formula that determines which jurisdictions are subject to preclearance based on their histories of discrimination in voting.
McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, 572 U.S. 185 (2014), was a landmark decision of the US Supreme Court on campaign finance. The decision held that Section 441 of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, which imposed a limit on contributions an individual can make over a two-year period to all national party and federal candidate committees, is unconstitutional.
Voter suppression in the United States is various legal and illegal efforts to prevent eligible voters from exercising their right to vote. Where found, such voter suppression efforts vary by state, local government, precinct, and election. Voter suppression has historically been used for racial, economic, gender, age and disability discrimination. Before and during the American Civil War, most African-Americans had not been able to vote. After the Civil War, all African-Americans were granted voting rights, causing some Southern Democrats and former Confederate states to institute actions such as poll taxes or language tests that were ostensibly not in contradiction to the U.S. Constitution at the time, but were used to limit and suppress voting access, most notably African American communities that made up large proportions of the population in those areas, but in many regions the majority of the electorate as a whole was functionally or officially unable to register to vote or unable to cast a ballot. African Americans' access to registration and voting in the South was often difficult until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and continues to be a subject of debate.
Lawrence D. Norden is the Senior Director of the Elections and Government Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.
A campaign finance reform amendment refers to any proposed amendment to the United States Constitution to authorize greater restrictions on spending related to political speech, and to overturn Supreme Court rulings which have narrowed such laws under the First Amendment. Several amendments have been filed since Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and the Occupy movement.
The For the People Act, introduced as H.R. 1, is a bill in the United States Congress intended to expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of money in politics, ban partisan gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal officeholders.