January 27, 2015
Looking Back at Five Years of Citizens United
This month marked the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court handing down its decision in Citizens United v. FEC. More than perhaps most other recent Supreme Court decisions, Citizens United has remained in the public consciousness, with defenses and criticisms arising anew during every election season. And, as demonstrated by last week’s protests at the Supreme Court in which eight protesters were arrested, tensions remain high. In the wake of the decision, there have been efforts, both traditional and creative, to change how the country approaches campaign finance. Sixteen states have called for a constitutional convention to propose an amendment to overturn Citizens United and just last week Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a constitutional amendment to achieve the same result. There was even a super PAC, MaydayPAC, that raised more than $10 million dollars during the 2014 election to support candidates who are sympathetic to the idea of reforming campaign-finance law. Perhaps the biggest boost to the visibility of the Citizens United decision and the changing state of campaign-finance law came from a television show airing on Comedy Central. Stephen Colbert formed a super PAC and documented the entire process on his now-defunct show The Colbert Report, including seeking an advisory opinion from the FEC. In the last five years, campaign finance became a part of popular culture. One predictable consequence of the decision is the renewed efforts of political parties to expand their fundraising abilities to keep pace with the new power of independent groups. The congressional spending bill that was passed in December of 2014 included provisions that would allow national political party committees to effectively triple their fundraising limits, up to a potential $3.1 million per couple in each election cycle. There have been calls in New Jersey to impose disclosure requirements on independent groups and to increase the limits governing contributions to candidates and parties, all in an effort to help strengthen the party structure in the State. You can find our complete coverage of Citizens United and its aftermath here.