Skip to Main Content

MPR News Speaks With Trevor Potter on Dynamics of Campaign Finance System

September 2, 2015, MPR News
MPR News spoke with Trevor Potter on the dynamics of the current campaign finance system and a few ways that states and local governments are making their elections more open to small donors. For the complete article, please visit MPR News' website.

Donald Trump as political donor

Caplin and Drysdale lawyer and former FEC Chair Trevor Potter said Trump fits squarely what Larry Lessig defines as 'the dependency system' where "public officials become dependent on their donors and, therefore, don't want to upset them."


How did we get here?

In the Supreme Court case, Buckley v Valeo the court "acknowledged that huge contributions come with strings -- that donors are expecting something and that the average member of the public is going to be suspicious of government because they're going to fear it has been bought by large donors," said Potter.

"Not only do large donations have the tendency to corrupt, but a system that exists on the large donations has a tendency to turn everyone else off," Potter added.

The problem with SuperPACs

Potter: "The Supreme Court's theory has been that outside groups won't corrupt and therefore can spend limited sums of money because they are wholly and totally independent of candidates. The reality is that almost all of these outside groups are run by former employees of the candidate, by relatives of candidate, or close friends who also are raising money directly for the candidate so they are in reality closely tied."

"The presidential candidates set up super PACs before they became a presidential candidate. So they're really their own creation run by their own people who were placed there by the candidates," Potter said. The Supreme Court's test "that they're wholly and totally independent of the candidates clearly is not met."

About Caplin & Drysdale
Celebrating our 55th Anniversary in 2019, Caplin & Drysdale continues to be a leading provider of legal services to corporations, individuals, and nonprofits throughout the United States and around the world. We are also privileged to serve as legal advisors to accounting firms, financial institutions, law firms, and other professional services organizations.

The firm's reputation over the years has earned us the trust and respect of clients, industry peers, and government agencies. Moreover, clients rely on our broad knowledge of the law and our keen insights into their business concerns and personal interests. Our lawyers' strong tactical and problem-solving skills -- combined with substantial experience handling a variety of complex, high stakes, matters in a boutique environment -- make us one the nation's most distinctive law firms.

With offices in New York City and Washington, D.C., Caplin & Drysdale's core practice areas include:
For more information, please visit us at
Washington, DC Office:
One Thomas Circle NW
Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20005
New York, NY Office:
600 Lexington Avenue
21st Floor
New York, NY 10022


This communication does not provide legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship with you or any other reader. If you require legal guidance in any specific situation, you should engage a qualified lawyer for that purpose. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Attorney Advertising
It is possible that under the laws, rules, or regulations of certain jurisdictions, this may be construed as an advertisement or solicitation.
©2021 Caplin & Drysdale, Chartered
All Rights Reserved.

Related Professionals

Related Practice Area(s)