Working Abstract

June 22, 2009

The Gavel on the Initiative Process: Hubris or Adequate Balance?

The courts play an integral role in the regulation of the initiative process. In this area of campaign finance law, the Court’s willingness to support challenged regulations is based, in large part, on public perceptions of corruption. It is clear that the appearance of corruption or the public’s perception thereof is central to the Court’s calculus when deciding on the constitutionality of matters in this context. Yet, it is unclear what satisfies this corruption standard. Despite attempts to clarify this standard made by prior research, recent court opinions have undercut their efforts. Overall, this paper establishes a more current conceptualization of the corruption standard and, further, what satisfies the Court’s demands so that the empirical realities of regulation are more understood.

Underlying the overarching purpose of this research is the demand for an evaluation of the role of public opinion, especially with respect to the judiciary. In part, evidentiary burdens are assessed so it is made clear when public opinion data can be considered by the Court. Furthermore, once that public opinion data satisfies the judiciary’s evidentiary demands, it is important to understand how the Courts use and respond to public opinion. The normative and empirical behavior of the judiciary’s response to public opinion is, thus, considered. This provides for a more holistic understanding of the ballot initiative context in order to test the assertion that: the Court’s decisions fail to appreciate the empirical realities of the ballot initiative context and its regulation, particularly in terms of public opinion.

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2 Responses to “Working Abstract”

  1. joshdoorn said

    Your project sees very interesting. How do you go about studying the corruption? Comparing the court cases with public opinion?

    • karlgiu said

      Corruption could be studied in two important, yet distinct ways. One could evaluate actual corruption; put another way, one could seek to show that a politician is, indeed, engaged in a quid pro quo (political bargaining). The recent impeachment and removal of the former Illinois governor makes a case of actual corruption. The other is more pertinent to my research: I seek to undertake an empirical study of the perception of corruption, which is assessed through public opinion. This is survey work that would either demonstrate that the public believes that there is or is not corruption. In addition, the strength of their beliefs can be assessed. In other words, if over 90% of those surveyed believe corruption exists and, further, that they want regulatory change, would serve as an example of the strength of their beliefs.

      To study corruption in the ballot initiative context, it is important to establish what the public believes. However, if that survey work is to have grounding or applicability (this is referred to as generalizability in political science), it needs to be confined to a context, a medium in which to evaluate the significance or importance of the survey work. This context is the ballot initiative process for me. I am playing by the Courts rules to either substantiate or disprove their assumptions, which suggest that regulation is neither warranted nor desired.

      The hurdles I face are showing when public opinion data can and will be used by the Courts. Further, public opinion will demonstrate whether or not regulation of the ballot initiative process is warranted or, at least, desired.

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