Reconciling Caperton and Citizens United: When Campaign Spending Should Compel Recusal of Elected Officials


Two recent high-profile U.S. Supreme Court decisions—Caperton and Citizens United—promise to fundamentally alter the landscape of campaign finance at all levels of government. At first glance, however, their holdings appear to be in considerable tension with one another. This Comment argues that we should overcome this tension by reading the decisions with reference to the form of power exercised by the government official who stood to benefit from the campaign expenditures in question. It argues that, as a reflection of two constitutional values—the Due Process Clause’s guarantee of a neutral decisionmaker and the First Amendment’s guarantee of decisionmakers responsive to the people—we should be supportive of attempts to influence officials who exercise nonadjudicatory power with campaign expenditures, but wary of similar attempts to influence officials who exercise adjudicatory power. The Comment finishes by contending that the principal consequence of this argument should be to investigate when a nonjudicial government official exercises adjudicatory power and to determine whether or not campaign expenditures made in support of that official require disqualification.

About the Author

Samuel P. Siegel is a Senior Editor for the UCLA Law Review, volume 59, and J.D. Candidate, 2012, at UCLA School of Law.

By uclalaw