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Maybe America ain't ready for campaign finance reform

James L. Merriner, one of Chicago’s reigning experts on political corruption, told a Sept. 28 gathering at the city’s Union League Club that it might be might be time to rethink campaign finance reform.

The first federal election campaign act was passed in 1971, and it was followed by many, many iterations at the state and local level.

“So we have a 40-year record of testing the effects of limits on campaign funding, and they have failed,” Merriner says.

Campaign finance reform has not reduced the influence of money in politics nor elevated public trust in government nor achieved any other goals of reformers, he says.

The Supreme Court has ruled that, under the Constitution, government can’t restrain political speech. So, he says, to limit the influence of money on politics you need either a constitutional amendment or a new Supreme Court.

Merriner is author of “Grafters and Goo goos: Corruption and Reform in Chicago,” a book that another panelist at the event, former Illinois legislator James Nowlan, said is the best book about the history of Illinois corruption.

Read a Sept. 7 Mark Brown column on Rahm Emanuel and fund-raising here.

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