The United States of America currently faces a number of complex and pressing issues, including an economy reeling from a financial crisis, a high level of unemployment, a healthcare system that leaves millions without access to vital medical treatment, and the lingering spectre of global warming. Each of these issues must be effectively addressed if America’s role as a major world power and its status as a prosperous nation are to be sustained. However, there is one central challenge facing the United States that connects all of these issues: the influence of moneyed interests that seek to hinder progress and preserve the status quo for their own political and financial benefit.
In the past, the influence of the wealthy and powerful on American politics was restrained by legislation, including the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) of 1971 and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA, also known as McCain-Feingold) of 2002. Among other important provisions, FECA established a system of public financing for presidential elections, and BCRA created significant restrictions on ‘independent expenditures,’ money spent on elections by groups not directly connected to a particular candidate.
In 2010, the Supreme Court released a decision in Citizens United v. FEC that significantly altered the nature of campaign finance in the United States. The court’s 5-4 ruling in Citizens United found that preventing organizations funded by corporate money from spending their funds on political advertising was in violation of the First Amendment. The court’s decision thereby invalidated many of the campaign finance regulations created through FECA and BCRA.
The Citizens United ruling opened the floodgates for a new breed of political organization, the Super-PAC (Political Action Committee). Super-PACs are organizations that can accept unlimited amounts of corporate money, which may then be spent on political activism with only limited restrictions and disclosure requirements. According to Open Secrets, a website that tracks sources of campaign funding, these Super-PACs have spent more than $272 million during the 2012 campaign alone, overtly campaigning for candidates which their donors favor and against those whom they oppose.
The primary purposes of the posts on this blog will be to explain in detail the corrupting effects of unregulated campaign finance on American politics, which ultimately undermine vital democratic institutions. An honest and comprehensive discussion of campaign finance is vitally important to America’s future, and this blog aims to be a part of that conversation.