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Jim Hanchett
School of Public and Environmental Affairs
Office 812-856-5490


Indiana University to host timely debate over political campaign financing

Sept. 4, 2014


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Leaders of organizations on opposite sides of the dispute over how political campaigns should be financed will square off in a public debate at Indiana University Bloomington.

David Cobb of the Move to Amend Campaign and James Bopp of the James Madison Center for Free Speech will face off in the Maurer School of Law Moot Court Room at 211 S. Indiana Ave. from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 8. The event, “Citizens Divided: Corporate Money, Speech and Politics,” is free and open to the public.

It focuses on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The case opened the door to unlimited individual, union and corporate contributions to organizations that say they are “independent.” Critics charge they work on behalf of candidates and threaten to corrupt the American political system. Supporters say the ruling was a victory for free speech rights.

More recent developments concerning campaign finance are also certain to divide Cobb and Bopp at the Bloomington debate:

  • The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a proposed constitutional amendment to override the Citizens United ruling. Backers of the amendment delivered 20,000 signatures this week on petitions in favor of the amendment to U.S. Sen. Joseph Donnelly, D-Ind.
  • Recent election campaigns have seen the emergence of so-called “super PACs” -- political action committees that put all or nearly all of their resources behind a single candidate in a way likely to tip the outcome.
  • Following a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to lift the cap on aggregate campaign donations, several hundred donors have already eclipsed the former cap of $123,000.

"This is a critical and urgent issue, and this debate offers students and everyone in the Bloomington community an exceptional opportunity to hear from passionate advocates on both sides," IU professor Paul Helmke said. A former U.S. Senate candidate, Helmke is now the director of the IU Civic Leaders Center, the organization sponsoring the debate, and a professor of practice in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Co-sponsors include the Maurer School of Law American Constitution Society, the Law and Public Policy Program at SPEA and Move to Amend South Central Indiana, a group that has endorsed the constitutional amendment.

Cobb serves as spokesman for Move to Amend. He is an attorney and former Green Party presidential nominee. Bopp is an IU graduate, an attorney from Terre Haute, Ind., and former Republican National Committee member. He served as a legal advisor to Citizens United as its case against campaign finance restrictions made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

About the Civic Leaders Center

The Civic Leaders Center is a residential facility at IU’s Briscoe Residence Hall and open to all IU students. The living-learning community focuses on public affairs and leadership training and is operated by the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.