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Campaign finance reform

Conference to tackle lobbying and campaign finance

By ILENE FLEISCHMANN

Published June 19, 2014

“Scholars are turning to looking at lobbying as a critical element of political-process regulation.”
Michael Halberstam, Associate Professor, UB Law School
Michael Halberstam

Michael Halberstam

The uneasy interaction between lobbying and the financing of election campaigns will be the focus of a major conference next month at the UB Law School.

The conference, “Under the Influence? Interest Groups, Lobbying and Campaign Finance,” will take place March 8 and 9 in 509 O’Brian Hall, North Campus. It is sponsored by the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy, the law school’s major interdisciplinary scholarship center.

Conference organizers are Michael Halberstam, UB associate professor of law, and Daniel Tokaji, Robert M. Duncan/Jones Day Designated Professor at Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University. Tokaji is co-editor of Election Law Journal, which expects to publish articles that arise from the conference.

Halberstam points out that this is the first conference to focus on the intersection between lobbying and campaign finance, a topic of increasing interest in the scholarly specialization called Law and Democracy.

“There is state and federal legislation regulating lobbying and campaign finance, but this has not been looked at together, systematically, except by a few scholars,” Halberstam says. “Now, scholars are turning to looking at lobbying as a critical element of political-process regulation.”

For example, he says, lobbyists now can act legally as campaign finance “bundlers,” hosting events through which they leverage much larger campaign contributions than they could otherwise be able to provide. “This kind of bundling goes on all the time,” Halberstam says, “and it is one issue of concern—whether lobbyists should be able to act as bundlers.”

The conference also is designed, he says, “for people from practice, government, academics and advocacy groups to get together and discuss these issues in a workshop setting that is really intended for us to learn from each other.”

“The regulation of lobbying is a cutting-edge issue in the law of elections and politics,” says Tokaji. “Election Law Journal is excited to have the opportunity to publish papers on lobbying and campaign finance by leading scholars from around the country.”

Topics to be addressed at the conference include:

  • The influence of outside money on state and local election contests and legislatures
  • The impact of the Supreme Court’s recent First Amendment decisions on state authority to regulate state and local campaign spending and lobbying activity
  • The incentives provided by the tax code for corporate political spending
  • The possibility of public funding for lobbying efforts
  • The promise and limits of disclosure.

In addition to Halberstam, other UB Law faculty members participating are Matthew Dimick, associate professor; James Gardner, professor; Stuart Lazar, associate professor; and Martha T. McCluskey, professor;

Registration information is available on the Baldy Center website.