Anyone who’s worked in a senior position on a major political campaign can attest that things get pretty crazy, especially near the end. Responses to the unexpected must be both fast and right.
Three Catholic University law school students were put to the test on May 1st during a campaign finance "Urgent Response Scenario" simulation, realistically scripted for them by Professor A.G. Harmon and adjunct faculty member Troy McCurry, who teaches the Campaign Finance Seminar.
Antonio Moore (3E), Erim Canligil (3E), and Michael Flynn (2D) took on the role of attorneys for a political organization that is pressed for an answer to a novel campaign finance law question, submitted via a frantic phone call. The “attorneys” were obliged to research election law and provide an answer within the hour—even as the scope of the legal question kept morphing.
“Unbeknownst to them, the party’s executive director called back from time to time with new requests—both changing the problem and shortening the time frame,” revealed Professor Harmon.
Two judges who’ve worked in the trenches of national campaigns for the Democratic and Republican parties judged and critiqued the law students on strategy, substance, and communication of the answer.
“The simulation recreated a scenario faced by political lawyers operating in the intensity of election season,” explained Harmon. “A political party wants to use a portion of its coordinated funds to employ voter ID data compiled in a past election in service of a current candidate’s campaign.”
Is the tactic legal? Can it be justified? The students set to work quickly on finding the right answers, aware that they were being measured on how well they researched and analyzed the relevant issues and on how well they formulated an appropriate course of action for their hypothetical client.
Serving as judges were Eric Wang, legal counsel to Americans for Prosperity, where he advises the ideological non-profit organization on federal and state campaign finance, lobbying, and tax laws. Wang writes frequently in Roll Call, The Hill, and The Washington Times on political law issues; and Sam Brown, associate at Allen & Overy, where his practice focuses on political law issues. Brown served as counsel to Commissioner Ellen Weintraub of the FEC where he assisted in formulating the commission’s response to the Citizens United decision.