Bradley A. Smith
Bradley A. Smith is a professor at Capital University Law School
Capital University Law School
Capital University Law School is an ABA-accredited private law school located in downtown Columbus, Ohio. The law school is affiliated with Capital University, the oldest and largest independent college in Central Ohio...

, who was Commissioner, Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Federal Election Commission
Federal Election Commission
The Federal Election Commission is an independent regulatory agency that was founded in 1975 by the United States Congress to regulate the campaign finance legislation in the United States. It was created in a provision of the 1975 amendment to the Federal Election Campaign Act...

 (FEC) between 2000 and 2005 and is best known for his writing and activities opposing campaign finance regulation
Campaign finance in the United States
Campaign finance in the United States is the financing of electoral campaigns at the federal, state, and local levels.At the federal level, the primary source of campaign funds is individuals; political action committees are a distant second. Contributions from both are limited, and direct...


Academic career and influence

A Michigan
Michigan is a U.S. state located in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake"....

 native, Smith received a B.A.
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 from Kalamazoo College
Kalamazoo College
Kalamazoo College, also known as K College or simply K, is a private liberal arts college in Kalamazoo, Michigan, United States. Founded in 1833, the college is among the 100 oldest in the country. Today, it produces more Peace Corps volunteers per capita than any other U.S...

 and a J.D.
Juris Doctor
Juris Doctor is a professional doctorate and first professional graduate degree in law.The degree was first awarded by Harvard University in the United States in the late 19th century and was created as a modern version of the old European doctor of law degree Juris Doctor (see etymology and...

 from Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Harvard University. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it is the oldest continually-operating law school in the United States and is home to the largest academic law library in the world. The school is routinely ranked by the U.S...

 in 1990. After briefly practicing law with the firm of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, Smith joined the faculty at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio in the fall of 1993. Smith's breakthrough came in 1996, when the Yale Law Journal published his article, "Faulty Assumptions and Undemocratic Consequences of Campaign Finance Reform."

In "Faulty Assumptions", Smith laid out a case against campaign finance regulation, arguing that efforts to regulate money in politics had been based on a series of incorrect beliefs about the effects of money in politics, and that as a result not only had "reform" failed to accomplish its objectives, it had made many of the problems worse. "Faulty Assumptions" contains no original research and little that is new in terms of Constitutional theory. Nevertheless, the article can be considered one of the most influential articles published on campaign finance in the last quarter of the twentieth century. The importance of "Faulty Assumptions" lay in its blending of existing political science research with legal and constitutional theory. Before "Faulty Assumptions", most legal scholarship on campaign finance had followed a narrative that assumed the corruptive and anti-egalitarian effects of large campaign contributions and spending, and had then focused on the creating a legal regime to control those effects and justify regulation against First Amendment claims recognized by the Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo
Buckley v. Valeo
Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 , was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States upheld a federal law which set limits on campaign contributions, but ruled that spending money to influence elections is a form of constitutionally protected free speech, and struck down portions of the law...

. At the same time, these articles were largely ignorant of a growing literature in political science based on empirical studies of campaign spending and regulatory regimes. Smith's contribution was to bring these two arms of scholarship together, blending the growing body of empirical data to the constitutional and legal principles laid out elsewhere. The result was a devastating assault on the very foundation of campaign finance reform
Campaign finance reform
Campaign finance reform is the common term for the political effort in the United States to change the involvement of money in politics, primarily in political campaigns....

 in both politics and constitutional law. Smith's analysis forced proponents of reform to rethink many basic assumptions, or at least to justify them against his critique.

Smith followed up the success of "Faulty Assumptions" with a series of academic articles further developing and refining his unique view, the most important of which is "Money Talks: Speech, Corruption, Equality and Campaign Finance", which appeared in the Georgetown Law Journal in 1997. "Money Talks" continues in the vein of "Faulty Assumptions" but with greater emphasis on Constitutional analysis.

Smith's work on campaign finance culminated in a book, Unfree Speech: The Folly of Campaign Finance Reform published by the Princeton University Press in 2001. Unfree Speech consists largely of updated and reworked versions of Smith's prior law review articles, along with some new material. By the time Unfree Speech was published, both Smith and his campaign finance scholarship had become something of a Rorschach test for attitudes about campaign finance. The book met with near universal praise among opponents of regulation, such as columnist George Will
George Will
George Frederick Will is an American newspaper columnist, journalist, and author. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winner best known for his conservative commentary on politics...

, who called it "the Year's most important book on governance," and condemnation from supporters of regulation, who lambasted it, in one reviewer's words, as "facile and boggling." Scholars such as the British political scientist Michael Pinto-Duschinsky were more balanced and generally complimentary, but by the time of publication Smith had been appointed to the Federal Election Commission and the book was largely reviewed as a political tract, rather than as the scholarly manuscript Smith presumably intended.

Nevertheless, Unfree Speech is an important academic work. It sold well enough to trigger the release of a paperback version in 2003. More importantly, Unfree Speech paved the way for later works. Before Unfree Speech, most books on campaign finance focused on sources of campaign funding and the creation of ideal regulatory regimes. Unfree Speech paved the way for a number of scholarly books more skeptical of campaign finance and its underlying assumptions, most notably John Samples' "The Fallacy of Campaign Finance Reform," but also including Rodney Smith's "Money, Power, and Elections," and less directly, works such as Melvin Urofsky's "Money and Free Speech" and Ray LaRaja's "Small Change."

FEC career

Smith's ability to write for a general audience soon attracted the attention of politicians and think tanks in Washington. The libertarian Cato Institute published a Policy Analysis by Smith in 1996 (largely a slimmed down version of his Yale Law Journal article of the same title) which was widely distributed in Washington. Smith became a popular witness before congressional panels, both for his contrarian views and his ability to simplify complex issues for ease of consumption. The pro-reform Brennan Center for Justice
Brennan Center for Justice
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School is a non-partisan public policy and law institute that focuses on issues involving democracy and justice...

 would eventually refer to Smith as "the most sought after witness" to make the case against reform in Congress. Having gained the attention of Republican leaders in Congress, in 1999 then Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott
Trent Lott
Chester Trent Lott, Sr. , is a former United States Senator from Mississippi and has served in numerous leadership positions in the House of Representatives and the Senate....

, on the recommendation of Senator Mitch McConnell
Mitch McConnell
Addison Mitchell "Mitch" McConnell, Jr. is the senior United States Senator from Kentucky and the Republican Minority Leader.- Early life, education, and military service :...

, sent Smith's name to the Clinton White House as the Republican choice to fill an upcoming Republican vacancy on the bipartisan Federal Election Commission
Federal Election Commission
The Federal Election Commission is an independent regulatory agency that was founded in 1975 by the United States Congress to regulate the campaign finance legislation in the United States. It was created in a provision of the 1975 amendment to the Federal Election Campaign Act...

, which oversees enforcement of campaign finance laws.

After a lengthy battle between Senate Republican leaders and the White House, Smith was nominated to a six year term on the FEC on February 9, 2000 by then-President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

, and confirmed to the post by the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 on May 24, 2000. By this time, Smith had established himself as one of the leading experts on campaign finance
Campaign finance
Campaign finance refers to all funds that are raised and spent in order to promote candidates, parties or policies in some sort of electoral contest. In modern democracies such funds are not necessarily devoted to election campaigns. Issue campaigns in referendums, party activities and party...

 in the United States, with his writings on campaign finance and election issues having appeared in noted academic publications in addition to the Yale Law Journal, including the University of Pennsylvania Law Review and the Harvard Journal of Legislation. He had also been a regular witness before the United States House of Representatives
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 and United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 on matters of campaign finance.

Because of his contrarian, deregulatory views on campaign finance, there was a strong objection to his nomination from reform advocates. The libertarian
Libertarianism, in the strictest sense, is the political philosophy that holds individual liberty as the basic moral principle of society. In the broadest sense, it is any political philosophy which approximates this view...

 magazine Reason
Reason (magazine)
Reason is a libertarian monthly magazine published by the Reason Foundation. The magazine has a circulation of around 60,000 and was named one of the 50 best magazines in 2003 and 2004 by the Chicago Tribune.- History :...

noted that virtually all reform advocates "agreed that he was the wrong person for the job". His nomination, however, received strong support from groups and organizations favoring deregulation of campaign finance, including, in addition to Reason, the Wall Street Journal, the Cato Institute
Cato Institute
The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C. It was founded in 1977 by Edward H. Crane, who remains president and CEO, and Charles Koch, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the conglomerate Koch Industries, Inc., the largest privately held...

, and others.

As Commissioner and later Chairman of the FEC, Smith remained controversial, particularly in 2004, when as Chairman he bucked the Republican Party and refused to support new regulations of so-called "527 group
527 group
A 527 organization or 527 group is a type of American tax-exempt organization named after "Section 527" of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code...

s," organizations largely unregulated by campaign finance laws that were generally believed to favor Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry
John Kerry
John Forbes Kerry is the senior United States Senator from Massachusetts, the 10th most senior U.S. Senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential election, but lost to former President George W...

. Smith's tenure was otherwise marked by efforts to reform the FEC's enforcement proceedings to provide greater due process rights for respondents, and a staunch stand against expansion of the law into uncharted areas. Smith also supported the creation of an Administrative Fines program and an Alternative Dispute Resolution Office at the FEC. As Commissioner, he maintained an active speaking schedule and rarely toned down his criticism of the laws he was charged with enforcing. He resigned from the FEC in August 2005 to return to teaching, writing in his resignation letter to President Bush that, "Political activity is more heavily regulated than at any time in our nation's history."

Post-FEC career

After leaving the FEC, Smith returned to teaching at Capital University, and founded a non-profit organization, the Center for Competitive Politics
Center for Competitive Politics
The Center for Competitive Politics is a Section 501 non-profit organization headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. The CCP's mission statement is "through legal briefs, studies, historical and constitutional analyses, and media communication, to educate the public on the actual effects of money...

, to promote deregulation of campaign finance. Smith is also a Senior Fellow at the Goldwater Institute
Goldwater Institute
The Goldwater Institute is a Phoenix, Arizona-based conservative public policy research organization established in 1988. The president is Darcy A. Olsen. The Goldwater Institute advances public policies with emphasis on lower taxes, limited government spending, school choice, and a reduction in...

, a member of the Board of Scholars at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy
Mackinac Center for Public Policy
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a free market think tank headquartered in Midland, Michigan. It is the USA’s largest state-based free market think tank...

, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Buckeye Institute. He serves on the Advisory Board of the Institute for Law and Politics
Institute for Law and Politics
The Institute for Law and Politics is an interdisciplinary research institute based at the University of Minnesota Law School. The Institute for Law and Politics brings together faculty from the Law School and the University of Minnesota Political Science department to study national and...

 at the University of Minnesota Law School
University of Minnesota Law School
The University of Minnesota Law School, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, is a professional school of the University of Minnesota. The school offers a Juris Doctor , Masters of Law for Foreign Lawyers, and joint degrees with J.D./M.B.A., J.D./M.P.A, J.D./M.A., J.D./M.S., J.D./Ph.D.,...

, and on the Editorial Advisory Board of the Election Law Journal. In 2007-08, he was an adviser on the Constitution and the courts for the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney
Willard Mitt Romney is an American businessman and politician. He was the 70th Governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007 and is a candidate for the 2012 Republican Party presidential nomination.The son of George W...

. In May 2010 he was announced as one of four winners of the year's Bradley Prize, awarded annually by the Bradley Foundation
Bradley Foundation
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a conservative foundation with about half a billion US dollars in assets. According to the Bradley Foundation 1998 Annual Report, it gives away more than $30 million per year...

 to innovative conservative thinkers.

Smith, a Roman Catholic, lives in Granville, Ohio
Granville, Ohio
As of the census of 2000, there were 3,167 people, 1,309 households, and 888 families residing in the village. The population density was 790.4 people per square mile . There were 1,384 housing units at an average density of 345.4 per square mile...

with his wife. He has two adult daughters.

External links

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