Ciara Torres-Spelliscy

US Law Expert International Law Expert
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Leroy Highbaugh Sr. Research Chair and Associate Professor of Law

A.B., Harvard University
J.D., Columbia School of Law

Election Law, Constitutional Law I and II, Corporate Governance in a Global Market, Business Entities, 
Honors Colloquium

Ciara Torres-Spelliscy is an associate professor, teaching courses in Election Law, Corporate Governance, Business Entities, and Constitutional Law. Prior to joining Stetson’s faculty, Professor Torres-Spelliscy was counsel in the Democracy Program of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law where she provided guidance on the issues of money in politics and the judiciary to state and federal lawmakers. She was an associate at Arnold & Porter LLP and a staffer for Senator Richard Durbin.

Professor Torres-Spelliscy has testified before Congress, and state and local legislative bodies as an expert on campaign finance reform. She has also helped draft legislation and Supreme Court briefs.  She is the editor of the 2010 edition of the Brennan Center’s campaign finance treatise, “Writing Reform: A Guide to Drafting State and Local Campaign Finance Laws.”

She researches and speaks publicly on campaign finance law as well as judicial selection. She has spoken at symposia at 26 universities around the nation. She presented at the 2013 and the 2015 Annual Conventions of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) and at the 2014 Annual Convention of the American Constitution Society, and the 2011, the 2014, and the 2016 Annual Conventions of the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL). In 2016 she spoke at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) at a forum on dark money and foreign money in U.S. elections.

She is the author of the book Corporate Citizen? An Argument for the Separation of Corporation and State (Carolina Academic Press, 2016).

As well as publishing in law reviews, such as the NYU Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy, and the Montana Law Review,  Professor Torres-Spelliscy has been published in the New York Times, New York Law Journal, Slate, L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Boston Review, Roll Call, Business Week, Forbes, The Atlantic, USA Today, Business Ethics Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, The Hill, Huffington Post, The Root.com, Judicature, The Nation, Salon.com, Tampa Bay Times, The Progressive, CNN.com, Medium, and the ABA Judges Journal. She has also been quoted by the media in The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The New York Times, Time, Bloomberg, Mother Jones, Newsweek on Air, SCOTUS Blog, Politico, Slate, The National Journal, USA Today, L.A. Times, Boston Globe, NBC.com, WMNF, Sirius Radio, National Public Radio, Fox, Voice America, CSPAN, DNA TV, and NY1.

In 2014, Stetson University College of Law awarded Professor Torres-Spelliscy the Dickerson-Brown award for Excellence in Faculty Scholarship. In 2013, Professor Torres-Spelliscy was named as a member of the Lawyers of Color’s “50 Under 50” list of minority law professors making an impact in legal education. In 2012, Professor Torres-Spelliscy was named as a Top Wonk by the website TopWonks.org. She was awarded tenure in 2016. In 2017, she was elected to be Chair of the AALS Section on Election Law for a term that starts in 2018.

Professor Torres-Spelliscy is a Brennan Center Fellow, a member of the Scholars Strategy Network, a member of the Board of Directors of the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, a former member of the Board of Directors of the National Institute on Money in State Politics, which was awarded the 2015 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.

Phone: 727-562-7856 | Email: [email protected]

Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, USA 01/01/2018 0

17 Things We Learned about Money in Politics in 2017

— from Brennen Center for Justice

But what did we learn about money in politics during the Earth’s ride around the Sun this year?

17. There’s still an appetite for reform. Polling showed that a majority – 57 percent — of Americans want limits on Super PACS, and that 60 percent of Independents, 51 percent of Democrats and even 48 percent of Republicans are opposed to the Citizens United ruling.

16. Corporations are feeling the pressure from stockholders on political spending. According to The 2017 CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Disclosure and Accountability, 120 companies in the S&P 500 have decided to refrain from making independent expenditures as a corporate policy.

15. Campaign law enforcement isn’t totally dead. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) levied a large fine ($350,000) against the American Conservative Union to settle a claim that they allegedly funneled $1.71 million in dark money into a Super PAC in the 2012 election. Super PACs are required to be transparent.

14. Big money still runs the show. The Republican Governors Association (RGA) and the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) continue to be top spenders in state races. In 2017, according to www.followthemoney.org, in the Virginia governor’s race, which had a price tag of $70 million, the RGA kicked in $5.75 million for former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie who lost by nearly nine percentage points, while the DGA kicked in $6.3 million for the winner, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam.

13. Even running for state legislature is getting mighty pricey. The total cost of elections to Virginia’s 100-member House of Delegates was just shy of $40 million. Control of the chamber was decided by a single vote in a recount, splitting the body 50-50, and ending 17 years of GOP dominance.

12. Deregulation is all the rage. The House version of the tax bill repealed the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits religious groups and churches from making political statements. It is possible the provision could be removed from the measure’s final version.

11. GOP Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell still rules the roost. Riders to impede the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from working on an anti-dark corporate money rule that at least 1 million people support were again placed in the federal budget.

10. All was not doom and gloom, however. A little light did break through. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the state’s DISCLOSE Act. Among other reforms, the law requires clear disclosure about who paid for a political ad.

9. Big sky country can keep their good law. The Ninth Circuit upheld Montana’s contribution limits in Lair v. Motl. The Court ruled “Montana’s limits are both justified by and adequately tailored to the state’s interest in combating quid pro quo corruption…”

8. The nation can keep our good law. Federal contribution limits for individuals were upheld unanimously by the D.C. Circuit en banc in Holmes v. FEC. Barring an appeal to the Supreme Court, this means limits for the 2018 election are $2,700 per person per election.

7. Localities can be laboratories for democracy. The St. Petersburg City Council (Fla.) passed an ordinance limiting Super PACs contributions to $5,000 and curtailing spending local elections by foreign-owned businesses.

6. Flipping a congressional district is still an uphill battle. In the struggle of money versus gerrymandering, gerrymandering appeared to win in the most expensive House race in history, Georgia’s 6th district. According to www.opensecrets.org, Jon Osoff, the Democrat running in this red district spent $29 million and lost to Karen Handel, a Republican who spent $6 million. Adding to the high price tag: there was also $14 million in independent spending against the Osoff and $6 million spent against the Handel.

5. Campaigning doesn’t stop. Taking the perpetual campaign to new heights, President Trump launched his reelection campaign committee as soon as he assumed office. Two expenditures have raised eyebrows: paying for lawyers for himself and his son in their ongoing legal troubles stemming from the 2016 election.

4. Your Facebook ad said what? After Facebook revealed that they had run at least $100,000 worth of political ads during the 2016 election paid for in rubles, the FEC took steps toward crafting a new rule for better disclosure of online ads. 150,000 public comments urged the Commission to Act.

3. Congress tiptoes toward being responsive. In reaction to the disclosure of Russian political advertising, The Honest Ads Act was introduced in the Senate.. If passed into to law, the measure would improve transparency of on-line political advertisements. The race of the tortoises is on between this effort and the FEC (above) to see which regulations are enacted first. .

2. Dusting off the Constitution can be helpful. A federal judge in DC v. Trump has granted two state attorneys general permission to subpoena 23 Trump businesses and require them to preserve documents in a suit alleging violations of Constitution’s two emoluments clauses. And in a separate case, CREW v. Trump, which also alleges violations of the emoluments clauses, there was an oral argument in October to determine if the case should proceed. Watch this space. The key argument in both cases (and in others) is President Trump is in on-going violation of the Constitution by accepting money from foreign governments through his many businesses. This could be a nothing burger or it could be a very big enchilada.

And 1. Which indictment is next? The Trump Russia investigation could turn on campaign finance law. None of us know which direction the Special Counsel’s investigation will go. So far there are four indictments, and two guilty pleas—both for lying to the FBI. The range of potential criminal charges could be vast. But since the Special Counsel is looking at foreign interference with an American election, the case could all come down to violations of federal campaign finance law. If former White House Counsel Bob Bauer is right—and I think he is—a charge of violating the long time ban on American campaigns’ soliciting or accepting things of value from foreigners could be the way this story ends.