Corruption in America From Benjamin Franklin's snuff box to Citizens United

Zephyr Teachout

Book - 2014

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Cambridge, Massachusetts : Harvard University Press 2014.
Main Author
Zephyr Teachout (-)
Physical Description
viii, 376 pages ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 357-358) and index.
  • Introduction
  • 1. Four Snuff Boxes and a Horse
  • 2. Changing the Frame
  • 3. Removing Temptations
  • 4. Yazoo
  • 5. Is Bribery without a Remedy?
  • 6. Railroad Ties
  • 7. The Forgotten Law of Lobbying
  • 8. The Gilded Age
  • 9. Two Kinds of Sticks
  • 10. The Jury Decides
  • 11. Operation Gemstone
  • 12. A West Virginia State of Mind
  • 13. Citizens United
  • 14. The New Snuff Boxes
  • 15. Facts in Exile, Complacency, and Disdain
  • 16. The Anticorruption Principle
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix 1. Anticorruption Constitutional Provisions
  • Appendix 2. Major Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Anticorruption Laws
  • Notes
  • Cases Cited
  • Further Reading
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
Review by Choice Review

In decisions such as Buckley v. Valeo (1976) and Citizens United v. The Federal Elections Commission (2010), the Supreme Court agreed with First Amendment claims that equate lobbying and campaign spending with political speech and in so doing sharply circumscribed Congress's power to defend itself against corruption or advance notions of the common good informed by the spirit of democratic equality. Teachout (law, Fordham Univ.) explores case law and controversies before the 1970s and finds that many generations of jurists and politicians had a much broader conception of political corruption and a richer sense of civic duty and viewed any sort of gift-giving from private citizens to public officials as ethically dubious and undermining of democratic legitimacy. Though there was quite a bit of public corruption in the old days, there was also a respect for public virtue for which modern jurisprudence has little patience. The Supreme Court's dramatic turn away from an older tradition leaves Congress unable to regulate lobbying and campaign spending wisely, should it chose to do so. With public confidence in government low and Washington politics driven by the agendas of corporations and the wealthy, Teachout's argument is timely, compelling, and important. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels. --Richard M. Flanagan, CUNY College of Staten Island

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by New York Times Review

CORRUPTION IN AMERICA: From Benjamin Franklin's Snuff Box to Citizens United, by Zephyr Teachout. (Harvard University, $18.95.) The founding fathers were deeply concerned with the threat corruption posed to their emergent government. Teachout, a Fordham law professor, powerfully argues that their commitment to safeguarding against it has been undermined by the Supreme Court since at least the 1970s - especially in the realm of corporations' financial contributions to politics. I REFUSE, by Per Petterson. Translated by Don Bartlett. (Graywolf, $16.) The two men at the heart of this story, Tommy and Jim, rediscover each other after decades apart, and marvel at the divergent paths their lives took. Petterson, the Norwegian novelist who wrote "Out Stealing Horses," examines the forces that pulled "the boys in different directions, the small quiet moments that forged their friendship and then pulled it apart," Harriet Lane wrote here. BARBARIAN DAYS: A Surfing Life, by William Finnegan. (Penguin, $17.) Finnegan, a staff writer for The New Yorker and the winner of this year's Pulitzer Prize for autobiography, recalls his shifting relationship to the sport: As an adolescent, he found in surfing a respite from the petty cruelties of middle school in Hawaii; later, it led him to join hordes of young surfers across the world in search of the ideal wave. THE INCARNATIONS, by Susan Barker. (Touchstone, $16.) In the taxi he drives in contemporary Beijing, Wang Jun finds a series of mysterious letters - signed by writers who claim to be his soul mate - that link him to five key episodes across 1,500 years of Chinese history. Barker's wildly inventive novel reveals Wang's previous roles, in the form of his earlier lives, in each of those moments from his country's past. THE BROTHERS: The Road to an American Tragedy, by Masha Gessen. (Riverhead, $16.) From their childhoods in Central Asia and Russia to their early days in the United States, Gessen pieces together the lives of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the two Chechen immigrants responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013. A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD, by Anne Tyler. (Ballantine, $16.) Tyler's novel chronicles the multigenerational Whitshanks, who remain anchored to their family home in Baltimore, and the celebrations, secrets and joys that stitch them together. "Tyler has a knack for turning sitcom situations into something far deeper and more moving," our reviewer, Rebecca Pepper Sinkler, wrote. LISTENING TO STONE: The Art and Life of Isamu Noguchi, by Hayden Herrera. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25.) This illuminating biography of the sculptor (1904-88) traces his early influences - as the son of a distant Japanese father and mercurial American mother, Noguchi rarely felt at home, and was shaped by his diverse travels. Herrera's account is a fitting companion guide to the artist who "sought and found, by making sculpture, a way to embed himself in the earth, in nature, in the world."

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [May 29, 2016]