On this week’s episode of You Don’t Have to Yell, Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, Professor of Law at Stetson University and Fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, discusses her new book “Political Brands”, which dives into the role of branding in shaping elections, its role in driving up the cost of elections, and the varied role the Supreme Court has taken in regulating the amount of money in politics.
Dwight Eisenhower was the first president to embrace the use of television advertising in his presidential bid against Adlai Stevenson in 1952. This kicked off an arms race for cash in elections, alongside calls by the public for laws to regulate campaign finance, and equally numerous court cases designed to water said campaign finance regulations down to the point of ineffectiveness.
At the same time, the court has played a varied part in limiting the amount of influence outside money can have on elections, with the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Rehnquist drawing a more solid line between campaign contributions and corruption of the legislative process, and the current one under Chief Justice Roberts effectively seeing no connection.
Recent decisions under the Roberts Court, such as Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission have resulted in an increase in outside spending in campaigns. At the same time, the fragmenting of the media landscape across cable news and social media has made it easier to reinforce the effects of partisan information bubbles, creating separate versions of reality not always aligned with the truth.
Torres-Spelliscy's book outlines the negative effects this has on policy and makes specific policy recommendations for how to counter it.