Delivering prestigious Gresham College Fulbright Lecture in London, Georgia Law Professor Lori Ringhand analyzes laws regulating online election campaign spending in US and UK

Pleased today to welcome back Lori A. Ringhand, J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law here at the University of Georgia School of Law, and, this Spring 2019 semester, a Fulbright Distinguished Chair at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. In connection with her US-UK Fulbright award, Professor Ringhand gave a prestigious lecture this past Tuesday, April 2, in London. Her account of that lecture – available on video – is below.

I recently had the pleasure of delivering the Gresham College Fulbright Lecture at the Museum of London. Gresham College has been offering free public lectures to residents of London for more than 400 years, and has been offering Fulbright lectures in partnership with the US/UK Fulbright Commission for decades.  Recent Gresham lecturers include eminent public law scholar Vernon Bogdanor,  historian and author Timothy Garton Ash, and current Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow.

My lecture focused on the challenges faced by lawmakers in the United States and the United Kingdom as they try to ensure that campaign finance laws remain relevant in the age of widespread online electioneering. As both nations have discovered, our existing regimes are not built for a world in which political advertising spreads, rapidly, organically, and often anonymously, through online social media platforms.

Regulators in the US and the UK nonetheless rarely look to each other’s experiences to inform their own thinking in this complex area. The election law systems of each country are seen as so fundamentally different that comparative consideration seems pointless.

As I explained in my Gresham Lecture, I disagree.

The differences in regulatory approaches certainly are real, and significant:

  • In the UK, political spending is limited, and most of it runs through political parties and regulated third-party campaigners, with outside or unregulated groups historically playing little role.
  • In the US, in contrast, political spending is increasingly dominated by outside groups, which can both raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, often entirely outside of the federal regulatory system.

But in regard to regulating online election activity, the similarities between the two nations are much more meaningful than the differences. As I laid out in the talk, the regulatory challenges presented by online electioneering difficult in both principle and practice, but they are fundamentally the same in each country. Consequently, there is a great deal we can learn from each other in this area.

I hope my lecture helps us take a necessary first step in that direction.

Georgia Law Professor Lori Ringhand reflects on faculty exchange in Israel

Pleased today to welcome a contribution from Lori A. Ringhand, J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law here at the University of Georgia School of Law. Professor Ringhand concentrates her teaching and scholarship in the areas of constitutional law, election law, and state and local government law – including comparative approaches. She is currently in residence at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, as a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Spring 2019. She contributes the post below on her recent faculty exchange experience at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

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I recently had the pleasure of participating in the faculty exchange between the University of Georgia School of Law and the Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv, Israel. This initiative lets faculty members from each school teach a mini-course at the other, as well as providing faculty with the opportunity to spend time sharing ideas and working with their colleagues abroad.

I taught Comparative Constitutional Law to a group of about fifteen law students at Bar-Ilan. Each day involved introductory readings, a short lecture, a group project, and student presentations. My students gave presentations on judicial selection methods, judicial review of executive powers in wartime, and the international law of secession. I learned a great deal, and hope they did as well.

df26b686-af56-4ff9-887a-262b0ccbb8e6I also had the opportunity to talk about my work on the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation process. Despite the dismal reputation of confirmation hearings, my empirical work in this area demonstrates that these hearings play an important role in providing public validation of constitutional change over time. Israel is debating its own high court confirmation process, and I was honored to share my views on the U.S. system on Walla! Global! with anchor Oren Hahari, to do an interview with renowned Israeli journalist Ya’akov Ahimeir, and to lead a research seminar with the Bar-Ilan faculty. It was fun – and challenging – to defend my views in the wake of the hotly contested Kavanaugh hearings.

IMG_0036The highlight of the trip, though, was a weekend trip Jerusalem. I had never visited this part of the world, and touring such an ancient city was an unforgettable experience. The religious and cultural significance of the city is obvious, and seeing such a mix of cultures and peoples figuring out how to share their holy lands was an extraordinary experience. History really does come to life in places like Jerusalem, and I am grateful to the Dean Rusk International Law Center and Bar-Ilan University for making my trip possible.