Law and Legal Practice in Campaign Debates

Law and Legal Practice in Campaign Debates

Mr. Ron Klain
Spring 2018 seminar
W 5:00pm - 7:00pm
2 classroom credits

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: No Exam

Face-to-face debates between candidates for President are a surprisingly recent development in American democracy, but have already surpassed all other campaign elements to become the most widely-viewed televised events in U.S. politics, and a successful American export to other democracies around the world. This seminar will study the legal, technological, cultural and political factors that created these debates, institutionalized them, and continue to shape them today. Topics will include the interaction between regulatory schemes and technological changes that have impacted political debates, the question of who “owns” these debates (and the consequences), the constitutional issues raised by the exclusion of non-major party candidates from debates, and the negotiation and enforceability of debate format agreements. The role of lawyers, and legal thinking, in formulating candidate debate strategies and in the preparation for debates will also be examined. The course largely focuses on U.S. Presidential general election debates, but will also study other political debates in the U.S., and campaign debates in other countries. The course concludes with a consideration of possible reforms of Presidential debates, and the legal, civic, technological and political factors that shape (and counsel for and against) such reforms. Students will be assigned two short topical papers, a debate-format agreement negotiation exercise, and a longer final paper on debate reform. There is no final exam, but class participation is graded.

Subject Areas: Disciplinary Perspectives & Law, Constitutional Law & Civil Rights, Regulatory Law