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The following two legal decisions are regarded as pivotal to significantly changing campaign finance in U.S. politics - and not for the better.

"Citizens United"

The proliferation of controversial political advertisements in the past decade isn't a coincidence. It's a direct result of the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, which helped pump billions of dollars into politics from outside sources that are supposed to be untethered from candidates or political parties.

On Jan. 21, 2010, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the longstanding prohibition on independent expenditures by corporations violated the First Amendment. With its decision, the court allowed corporations, including nonprofits, and labor unions to spend unlimited sums to support or oppose political candidates. The majority made the case that political spending from independent actors, even from powerful corporations, was not a corrupting influence on those in office.

McCutcheon v. FEC

The April 2014 Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission removed aggregate limits for individual donors giving to candidates, political parties and PACs. There are still limits on how much any individual may give to each of those committees. No longer, though, is there an overall cap on how much one person can give to these committees combined in an election cycle; the last such limit, which was in place until the court's ruling, was $123,200. The ruling expands opportunities for deep-pocketed donors to contribute to as many recipients as they want and fuels the creation of "super JFCs" — joint fundraising partnerships between many campaigns or party committees, which allows them to collect one large check from each donor and split the proceeds. While JFCs are not new, the pre-McCutcheon limits had the practical effect of keeping them relatively small, since a donor couldn't give to many committees before hitting the cap. Big donors are even more sought after now, and politicians who can draw those donors in on the behalf of their JFC partners have increased clout.



Quotable Quotes

  • "No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session." 
    - Mark Twain

  • "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad." 
    - Aldous Huxley

  • "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." 
    - George Orwell

  • "Truth is the only safe ground to stand on. "
    - Elizabeth Cady Stanton

  • "An informed citizenry is the bulwark of a democracy." 
    - Thomas Jefferson

  • “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't – you're right,”
    - Henry Ford

  • “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
    - Margaret Mead

  • Decisions are made by those who show up.
    - Aaron Sorkin

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