MacArthur Fellows Program

John C. Bonifaz

Lawyer and Voting Rights Advocate | Class of 1999

Lawyer and Voting Rights Advocate
Boston, Massachusetts
33 at time of award
Published July 1, 1999

About John's Work

John Bonifaz is a public interest lawyer who uses innovative litigation to reexamine campaign finance reform arguments typically debated on first amendment grounds.

Through the National Voting Rights Institute, Bonifaz recasts legal arguments to focus on fourteenth amendment protections, challenging the relationship between money and politics. His pioneering Yale Law and Policy Review article, “Equal Protection and the Wealth Primary” (1994), which he co-authored, outlines the legal strategy with which he and the Institute have approached the controversial 1976 Buckley v. Valeo Supreme Court ruling. While Buckley v. Valeo equates campaign spending with first amendment free speech, Bonifaz examines campaign financing from the standpoint of fourteenth amendment equal protection rights. This strategy places campaign finance practices in a tradition of voting rights law, and asks whether these practices are fair and democratic and whether money effectively disenfranchises those unable to contribute to political campaigns.  On both affirmative and defensive fronts, Bonifaz and the Institute are leading the legal movement to identify new and compelling arguments in support of reform.


Bonifaz is founder and general counsel for the National Voting Rights Institute and an attorney in the law offices of Cristobal Bonifaz.

Bonifaz received a B.A. (1989) from Brown University and a J.D. (1992) from Harvard Law School.

Last updated January 1, 2005

Select News Coverage of John C. Bonifaz
October 22, 2014
"John Bonifaz: Campaign Finance and the Equal Protection Clause"
The Brennan Center for Justice
John C. Bonifaz , 1999 MacArthur Fellow
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