Citizens United Makes For Blurry Lines For Presidential Campaigns And Super PACs

With the hurricane taking over the new cycle not much has been able to break through - but this outstanding piece in the New York Times was posted yesterday that talks about the unfortunate backlash from the Citizens United ruling. "The event was

With the hurricane taking over the new cycle not much has been able to break through - but this outstanding piece in the New York Times was posted yesterday that talks about the unfortunate backlash from the Citizens United ruling.

"The event was not a fund-raiser for Mr. Romney’s campaign, however, but for Restore Our Future, a political action committee founded by his allies. And only when Mr. Romney left the room did one of the group’s officials stand up to brief the donors on their plans: to raise and spend millions of dollars in unrestricted campaign donations — something presidential candidates are forbidden to do themselves — to help elect Mr. Romney president."

Romney has been on of the leaders in using open campaign finance laws to raise unlimited amounts of money through state PACs, super PACs, as well as his presidential committee.

"The fact that Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who is weighing a run for president in 2012, has an active political action committee in Alabama might seem puzzling.

It is, after all, not a critical early-voting state for the Republican nomination, where these kinds of leadership PACs are often set up by potential presidential candidates.
Upon closer inspection, though, Mr. Romney’s interest in Alabama snaps into focus. The state has among the most permissive campaign finance rules in the nation, allowing contributions of unlimited size from individuals and corporations.
As a result, the Alabama affiliate of Mr. Romney’s federal PAC, Free and Strong America, has raised more than $440,000 this year, with many of the contributions amounting to tens of thousands of dollars each."

It shouldn't be shocking that's the reason that the President intends to raise over $1 billion for his campaign. The graph below shows the difference in time that candidates spend with voters when they're campaigns are being publicly financed through clean elections vs. when they're being paid for by donors.


Since money is speech if you don't have money does that mean that you don't have speech? Because it seems clear that unless you pay for it, its the only way you get to actually talk to candidates anymore.

A few weeks ago the re-call elections in Wisconsin indicate that about $40 million was spent on a total of nine elections. Contrast that with the 2010 Election where the state had 116 races and a total of only $17.5 million was raised and spent.

In the 1976 Buckley vs. Valejo decision from the Supreme Court ruling they made a clear distinction between contributions to a campaign and spending. At that time Justice Kennedy said Buckley opened a dangerous door to campaign finance law saying that on-sided regulations created not clean and free expression but "covert speech funded by unlimited soft money." Thirty-five years later his words are a haunting reminder of this new world we live in where elections are not about issues or ideas but about money and promises of corporate back-scratching once elected.

About SarahBurris

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Sarah is a current editor for She is a former partner in the online media firm Mixed Media that worked in Kansas and Oklahoma and manages social media and online marketing for non-profits and political candidates in two states and Washington DC. Previously, Sarah worked for Skyline Public Works where she helped state based youth organizations connect with major funders across the country. In 2008 was named one of the five Rock the Vote Rock the Trail Reporters and reported on the election from the youth perspective attending the Democratic and Republican Conventions, Ron Paul's Un-Convention, the first debate at Ole Miss and the Vice Presidential Debate in St. Louis as well as a reporter that interviewed leaders across the country including Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Bob Barr, Gavin Newsome, and many more. Sarah was one of the first ever recipients of the Democracy for America Netroots Nation scholarship and in 2009 was named by the New Leader's Council as one of the 40 Emerging Leaders Under 40 in the United States. In 2010 Sarah was named by the Oklahoma Truth Council as one of the 25 young Oklahomans to watch which she jokes is because both parties prefer to "keep an eye" on her. She is a founding blogger at Everyday Citizen, and was a long time writer and researcher for Wiretap Magazine. She's excited to join the writing crew at Crooks and Liars and continue to hold our leaders accountable. Opinions written here are my own and not a reflection of my employer.


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