Sara Swann is a staff writer covering campaign finance and other reform issues. She previously reported on local and state government for The Daily Times on Maryland's Eastern Shore. She has also done money in politics reporting for the Center for Responsive Politics. Sara is an alumna of Syracuse University.
Gerrymandering for partisan advantage has been a game only politicians could play. The Supreme Court is poised to decide if those contests can continue under the currently loose rules. But whatever the outcome, mapmaking like a professional will become a pastime the whole family can enjoy.
That's because of Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game, produced by three board game enthusiasts from a politically engaged family in Texas. It's been issued ($40 on Calenders.com or Amazon) just in time for a landmark ruling, expected this week, on whether there's a constitutional limit to the cartographic contortions both parties employ to capture as many congressional seats as possible.
While players of the game handle their balsa wood pieces for half an hour at a time, the justices are handling something much less tangible – but with consequences that could last decades.
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A main marketing line for democracy reform advocates is that fixing the political system is a predicate to tackling all the other pressing problems of the day. And in Congress, a prominent acolyte of this idea is Sheldon Whitehouse, the Senate's most persistent advocate for combating climate change, who has long argued his cause will never gain traction while unlimited "dark money" permeates the campaign finance system.
The Rhode Island Democrat was making his case again this week, putting together a meeting of advocates for reducing money's role in politics and advocates of reducing carbon's role in the economy.
Wednesday's gathering in downtown Washington, with members of End Citizens United and the League of Conservation Voters, came as a growing number of Democratic presidential candidates are highlighting a link between their climate change proposals and their proposals for regulating campaign finance and lobbying.
The collective argument is that so long as the oil, gas and coal industries remain such mainstays of the unregulated and secretive campaign money universe that legislation to slow global warming doesn't stand a chance.
Glimmers of rare bipartisan consensus appeared Thursday at the Federal Election Commission, where the panel's two Republicans joined the Democratic chairwoman in proposing regulation of political advertisements online.
At least at first blush, there seemed to be plenty of room for compromise between the freshly unveiled GOP plan and the one unveiled earlier in the week by Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub.
The main disagreement looks to be whether to exempt any sorts of campaigns from having to disclose their identities.