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“Now, to the extent that you have individuals or organizations that are funding three-quarters of some candidate’s campaign, which they could easily be doing in some of these Congressional elections, that’s got to meet the standard of ‘appearance of corruption.’” tighter limits—and risk losing their tax-exempt status—when they engage in “express advocacy” (ads that explicitly advocate for the election or defeat of a particular candidate). Many smart people have been left wondering, though, if the difference between “express advocacy” and “electioneering communications” isn’t at all discernible to the television-viewing voter, why should the distinction matter to the courts?

Illustration: Josh Peter

Fast forward to January 2010, when Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission blew another hole in the crumbling fortress of campaign finance regulation. When the Supreme Court sided with Citizens United, ruling that the Federal Elections Commission couldn’t prohibit corporations and unions from exercising their free speech rights

in the form of independent expenditures, the drawbridge was lowered. Then SpeechNow. org v. the Federal Elections Commission, just a few months later, allowed corporations and individuals to pool funds to amplify their messages. Super PACs were born. What it all means

“The consequences for our campaign finance system are huge,” says Hall, who is certainly not alone in thinking that these matters may Richard L. Hall need to be revisited by the courts. Beyond the fact that Super PACs have allowed a few wealthy donors to keep their favorite presidential candidates in the game long past the point when the Republican presidential candidate would normally have been selected, says Hall, they’ve

Profile for Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

Spring 2012 State & Hill: American Electoral Politics  

State & Hill, spring 2012 edition: "American Electoral Politics." State & Hill is the official magazine of the Gerald R. Ford School of Publ...

Spring 2012 State & Hill: American Electoral Politics  

State & Hill, spring 2012 edition: "American Electoral Politics." State & Hill is the official magazine of the Gerald R. Ford School of Publ...

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