Corporate Accountability

The Framers’ View Of Corruption: What The Supreme Court Should Know

Harvard University’s Lawrence Lessig represented by CAC in groundbreaking brief


Washington, DC – Constitutional Accountability Center today filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in the campaign finance case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, on behalf of Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig – perhaps the Nation’s foremost scholarly authority on money and politics and the Framers’ view of corruption .


Announcing today’s filing, CAC President Doug Kendall said, “This brief presents path-breaking scholarship about how the Constitution’s Framers viewed corruption that has never been presented to the Court before. We hope the Court takes this scholarship to heart and uses its ruling in McCutcheon to move the law back toward first principles, rather than compounding the errors of Citizens United.”


Read the brief here:


Lawrence Lessig is Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics.  He teaches constitutional law and institutional ethics, and his scholarship has analyzed corruption, the Constitution, and Supreme Court precedent.  His recent research into the Framers’ conception of “corruption” – including a catalogue of the instance and context of each use of the word “corruption” during the framing debates – is the core of CAC’s brief in the McCutcheon case.


CAC Chief Counsel Elizabeth Wydra said, “The attempt by the Court majority in Citizens United to limit ‘corruption’ to bribery and quid pro quo types of arrangements is, as our brief shows, fundamentally out of step with the Framer’s views.”


CAC Civil Rights Director David Gans continued, “The contribution limits challenged by McCutcheon help prevent the very sort of corrupting dependence on outside forces that the Framers wrote the Constitution to check.  If the Justices follow the Constitution’s text and history, they will uphold these limits.”






*  CAC’s brief on behalf of Professor Lawrence Lessig in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission


*  Lawrence Lessig’s new Tumblr page – “‘Corruption,’ originally.” – cataloging each use of the word “corruption” in the framing debates: 


*  “A Capitalist Joker: The Strange Origins, Disturbing Past and Uncertain Future of Corporate Personhood in American Law,” CAC Text and History Narrative, David Gans and Doug Kendall: 


*  “Citizens United, President Obama, and his Liberal Naysayers,” Doug Kendall and Tom Donnelly, November 2, 2012: 


*  “Citizens United and Corporate Personhood: The Problem Isn’t the Constitution, It’s the Court,” Elizabeth Wydra, January 25, 2011:


*  McCutcheon is scheduled for oral argument on the second day of the new Supreme Court Term, Tuesday, October 8, 2013.




Constitutional Accountability Center ( is a think tank, public interest law firm, and action center dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution’s text and history.



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