Political Science Campaign Finance in the Era of Super-PACS
by
Robert G. Boatright
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 August 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0229

Introduction

The regulations concerning how American political campaigns are financed have changed dramatically over the past decade. The US Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision (2010) removed restrictions on corporate and labor spending on elections. A subsequent decision in American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock held that the ruling also applied to state elections. The Supreme Court’s decision ultimately led to the establishment of “super PACs” as a result of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals opinion in SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission, which held that political committees that only spend money independently in support of candidates are not subject to federal contribution limits but must comply with disclosure rules. Super PACs were thus permitted to use unlimited contributions to finance independent advocacy spending. While super PACs cannot give money directly to candidates or directly coordinate their efforts with candidates or parties, within a short amount of time they developed the ability to come quite close to serving as parallel campaign organizations. Not coincidentally, total spending on presidential and congressional elections increased substantially in the election cycles following the decision. The Citizens United decision did not merely increase spending in these elections, however; it shifted the balance in spending away from candidates and parties and toward groups. This prompted a variety of changes, as well, in the content of political advertisements; in public attitudes toward campaign finance; and in the ability of citizens to know the sources of campaign money. However, not all changes in campaign finance were a consequence of the Citizens United decision; candidate fundraising practices, advertising strategies, communication techniques, and many other activities related to the campaign finance system are constantly evolving. This literature review focuses on the origins of the Citizens United decision, ways in which we might measure its consequences for campaign spending, and the broader consequences for American democracy of campaign finance laws and practices.

The Citizens United Decision

Campaign finance law has been in a state of flux for much of the past fifty years. As a consequence, there is a well-developed body of work on the relationship between the courts and the campaign finance system. This work includes theoretical considerations of the relationship between money and democratic elections and of the Constitutional rationale for different types of regulation.

Historical and Theoretical Perspectives

Many studies have tried to place the Citizens United decision within a broader historical theory of how and why campaign finance regulations change. Bowler and Donovan 2013, Cain 2015, and Masket 2016 all adopt a pluralist framework for understanding campaign finance laws. Each of these books also compares campaign finance laws to primary election laws and other efforts to restrict the power of political parties. Several other studies provide insight into how politicians design and adapt to changes in campaign finance law. Corrado 2019 provides a concise summary of changes in the law, and Franz 2013 provides a summary with a particular focus on corporations. La Raja 2008 contends that most campaign finance laws can be understood as efforts by one party to establish a financial advantage over the other (a perspective common in comparative campaign finance studies such as Katz and Mair 1995). Mutch 2014 and Malbin 2003 seek to understand the history of campaign finance laws and changes in the demand of politicians for resources. Corrado, et al. 2005 is the most comprehensive summary of campaign finance issues before Citizens United.

  • Bowler, Shaun, and Todd Donovan. The Limits of Electoral Reform. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199695409.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Bowler and Donovan argue that reform advocates tend to promise that in order to secure passage of their proposed changes, they tend to exaggerate the benefits of their reforms. This ultimately can lead to disillusionment and backlash against the reforms.

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  • Cain, Bruce E. Democracy More or Less: America’s Political Reform Quandary. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

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    Argues that American politics is characterized by reform cycles. Recent reforms, however, have fueled a growth in polarization as activists become more important in the financing of elections. These efforts have coincided with Americans’ growing sense that there is rampant corruption and decreased accountability in politics.

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  • Corrado, Anthony. “The Regulatory Environment of the 2016 Election.” In Financing the 2016 Election. Edited by David B. Magleby, 55–86. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2019.

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    A summary of the legal and regulatory changes resulting from Citizens United and the regulations established by the Federal Election Commission governing the activities of super PACs.

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  • Corrado, Anthony, Thomas E. Mann, Daniel R. Ortiz, and Trevor Potter. The New Campaign Finance Reform Sourcebook. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2005.

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    A compendium of pieces summarizing issues in campaign finance law and what the consequences of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 had been for parties, interest groups, and candidates.

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  • Franz, Michael M. “Past as Prologue: The Electoral Influence of Corporations.” In Interest Groups Unleashed. Edited by Paul S. Herrnson, Christopher J. Deering, and Clyde Wilcox, 101–128. Los Angeles: Congressional Quarterly, 2013.

    DOI: 10.4135/9781483349367.n6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides an overview of the ways in which corporations participated in the financing of elections prior to Citizens United and the regulatory changes resulting from the decision.

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  • Katz, Richard S., and Peter Mair. “Changing Models of Party Organization and Party Democracy.” Party Politics 1.1 (1995): 5–28.

    DOI: 10.1177/1354068895001001001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Original statement of the “cartel model” of party funding, which states that parties enact election reforms in order to restrict competition.

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  • La Raja, Raymond J. Small Change: Money, Political Parties, and Campaign Finance Reform. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008.

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    A comprehensive history of campaign finance regulation, organized around a claim that reforms are instituted in order to advantage the dominant party, or, in instances where nonparty movements such as the Progressives have pushed for reform, to advantage party factions.

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  • Malbin, Michael J. “Thinking about Reform.” In Life After Reform: When the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act Meets Politics. Edited by Michael J. Malbin, 3–20. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003.

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    Malbin argues that campaign finance practices are best understood with reference to the degree to which money is “pushed” into the system by political activists or “pulled” by politicians.

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  • Masket, Seth. The Inevitable Party. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190220839.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is essentially a collection of historical studies of state legislative politics; the unifying theme is that parties are very resilient, but that “good government” reforms often harm transparency or accountability.

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  • Mutch, Robert E. Buying the Vote: A History of Campaign Finance Reform. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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    Mutch presents a history of campaign finance laws since the early 20th century; he concludes that for much of the century a consensus existed among elites about the need for regulation, but that this consensus entirely collapsed by the end of the century. Politicians now have little ability to legislate changes in campaign finance law, which grants the courts much greater power than before in determining what is permissible.

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The Intellectual Groundwork for Citizens United

Conservative legal scholars had advocated for “deregulation” of campaign finance law for over a decade prior to the Citizens United decision. Smith 2001 provides the most comprehensive argument for reducing all manner of federal regulation of campaign spending. Samples 2006 details many of what he considers the pernicious consequences of regulation. Both Smith and Samples held positions in Washington-based advocacy organizations—Smith at the Center for Competitive Politics and Samples at the Cato Institute. Gora 2013 and Hayward 2010 emphasize the contribution of super PACs to campaign speech and voter knowledge about political issues. Hollis-Brusky 2015 situates studies such as these within the larger conservative legal movement.

  • Gora, Joel M. “In Defense of ‘Super PACs’ and of the First Amendment.” Seton Hall Law Review 43.4 (2013): 1185–1207.

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    Emphasizes the contribution of super PACs to campaign speech, claiming that super PAC advertising expand the amount of speech in elections without harming anyone, and giving voters greater information. Suggests that limits on other types of political contributions should also be removed.

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  • Hayward, Allison R. “Citizens United: Correct, Modest, and Overdue.” Akron Journal of Constitutional Law and Policy 1 (2010): 1–6.

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    A brief laudatory piece on the Citizens United decision, arguing that it is entirely consistent with the First Amendment and will not have a major effect on elections.

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  • Hollis-Brusky, Amanda. Ideas with Consequences: The Federalist Society and the Conservative Counterrevolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

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    Places the Citizens United decision in the context of conservative legal scholarship and explores common themes in the Citizens United decision and other decisions by the Rehnquist and Roberts Courts.

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  • Samples, John Curtis. The Fallacy of Campaign Finance Reform. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226734637.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Compares what Samples describes as a Madisonian and Progressive view of campaign finance law. He takes several premises of the Progressive vision of regulation and finds each one lacking. He closes by advocating for a system of less regulated, anonymous contributions.

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  • Smith, Bradley. Unfree Speech: The Folly of Campaign Finance Reform. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

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    Presents a detailed argument against most campaign finance restrictions, arguing that they restrict speech and aid incumbents. Smith cautiously endorses some disclosure provisions.

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Responses in the Legal Community

A variety of law review symposia, edited volumes, and monographs appeared after the Citizens United decision that analyzed the decision’s rationale and its relationship to previous campaign finance jurisprudence. Most of these criticized the content of the court’s decision, and some questioned whether the courts should be playing such an active role in determining the constitutionality of campaign finance laws. Briffault 2011 laments the reliance of opponents of existing laws to depend so heavily on the courts, and Mazo 2014 makes a case that Congress should have greater authority to enact campaign finance laws as matters of congressional ethics. Youn 2011 questions the court’s longstanding equation of money and speech, and Kang 2012 questions some of the empirical assumptions in the decision. Similarly, Post 2014 contends that political integrity is a better criterion for legal action than speech, and Hasen 2016 proposes that inequality serves as a better criterion for evaluating campaign finance laws. More recently, in another compendium of legal arguments about Citizens United, Sitaraman 2018 explores extralegal responses to the decision from citizens and citizen groups.

  • Briffault, Richard. “On Dejudicializing American Campaign Finance Law.” Georgia State University Law Review 27.4 (2011): 887–934.

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    Contends that campaign finance regulations are more properly achieved through legislation, rather than through court decisions.

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  • Hasen, Richard L. Plutocrats United: Campaign Money, the Supreme Court, and the Distortion of American Elections. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016.

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    Drawn from ideas Hasen explored in a series of law review articles immediately after the decision. Hasen argues that the focus of liberals and conservatives on corruption is a misunderstanding of the central problem in campaign finance. He recommends that liberals focus more on the ways in which deregulation of campaign finance exacerbates inequality in political influence. He recommends enhancing incentives for small donors.

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  • Kang, Michael. “The End of Campaign Finance Law.” Virginia Law Review 98 (2012): 1–65.

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    Summarizes some of the empirical claims in the Citizens United decision; shows how they either were not true at the time or have not proven to be true.

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  • Mazo, Eugene D. “The Disappearance of Corruption and the New Path Forward in Campaign Finance.” Duke Journal of Constitutional Law and Policy 9.1 (2014): 259–313.

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    Mazo discusses problems with the narrow definition of corruption in the Citizens United decision, and concludes that Congress should regulate campaign finance through ethics rules.

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  • Post, Robert C. Citizens Divided: Campaign Finance Reform and the Constitution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.4159/9780674369603Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contends that the courts must balance electoral integrity against free speech, and that the Citizens United decision erred in weighing speech more heavily than integrity. The volume includes responses by Lawrence Lessig, Pamela Karlan, Nadia Urbinati, and Frank Michelman.

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  • Sitaraman, Ganesh. “The People’s Pledge: Campaign Finance Reform without Legal Reform.” In Democracy by the People: Reforming Campaign Finance in America. Edited by Eugene D. Mazo and Timothy K. Kuhner, 201–219. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

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    Noting that by the late 2010s, the legal avenues for responding to Citizens United had shrunk, Sitaraman describes ways that citizens might encourage candidates to voluntarily reject super PAC support.

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  • Youn, Monica. “First Amendment Fault Lines and the Citizens United Decision.” In Money, Politics, and the Constitution. Edited by Monica Youn, 95–116. New York: Century Foundation, 2011.

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    In this edited volume of immediate responses to the Citizens United decision, Youn argues that it is inappropriate for the court to equate corporate spending as speech.

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Campaign Finance in Different Types of Elections

The establishment of super PACs and the deregulation of corporate and labor advocacy have had different types of effects in different types of elections. It has also taken several election cycles for candidates to adapt to the new campaign finance regulations, and there is no way to be certain that candidates are not still determining how to use these regulations to their advantage. Most studies of elections focus either on the presidential campaigns or on congressional campaigns, and, in addition, many important works have focused on individual elections.

Congressional Elections

Super PACs have dramatically changed the financing of congressional elections. Their effect has also changed substantially over the past for election cycles. Boatright 2013 documents the changes in the financing of nonincumbent candidates’ primary campaigns, comparing 2010 to prior cycles. Heberlig and Larson 2014 considers spending by incumbents and the effect increased outside spending has had on candidate fundraising. Reynolds and Hall 2019 provides an overview of spending for the 2012 congressional elections. Boatright, et al. 2016 contends that super PAC expenditures by 2014 were more in line with the goals of the party committees than they had been in 2010 or 2012. Tokaji and Strause 2014 considers congressional campaign finance through a series of interviews, seeking to assess the perceptions of candidates and the role that the threat of outside spending plays in determining how candidates campaign.

  • Boatright, Robert G. Getting Primaried: The Changing Politics of Congressional Primary Elections. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.3998/mpub.5181079Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An analysis of primary challenges to congressional incumbents from 1970 to 2010. Boatright finds that in recent elections interest groups have sought to intimidate members of Congress by spending heavily on a small number of primary challenges. The advent of super PACs, he claims, may enhance the ability of groups to do this.

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  • Boatright, Robert G., Michael J. Malbin, and Brendan Glavin. “Independent Expenditures in Congressional Primaries after Citizens United.” Interest Groups and Advocacy 5.2 (2016): 119–140.

    DOI: 10.1057/iga.2016.1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An updating of some of the claims in Boatright 2013; this piece notes the declining ability in 2014 of super PACs to work against the interests of the political parties.

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  • Heberlig, Eric, and Bruce Larson. “US House Incumbent Fundraising and Spending in a Post–Citizens United World.” Political Science Quarterly 129.4 (2014): 613–642.

    DOI: 10.1002/polq.12249Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that the threat of outside spending has led congressional incumbents to keep more of their campaign money in reserve, and to distribute less money to other candidates or to party committees.

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  • Reynolds, Molly E., and Richard L. Hall. “Financing the 2016 Congressional Election.” In Financing the 2016 Election. Edited by David Magleby, 217–250. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2019.

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    A descriptive summary of spending in congressional elections; includes an analysis of the expenditures of different types of outside groups in the election, with some comparison to average expenditures in prior years.

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  • Tokaji, Daniel P., and Renata E. B. Strause. The New Soft Money: Outside Spending in Congressional Elections. Columbus: Ohio State University Moritz School of Law, 2014.

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    Draws on interviews with former members of Congress and other political elites to explore the effects of Citizens United. Concludes that one major consequence of the decision is the perception by legislators that there is always a threat of large expenditures being made against them.

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Presidential Elections

Candidate-allied super PACs first appeared in 2012; in that election and the 2016 election, most Democratic and Republican primary contenders had an allied super PAC. Several election retrospectives have included chapters summarizing spending by super PACs in the presidential primaries and general election. These studies include Currinder 2018 and Hopkins 2019. A major subject of these studies is whether candidate-specific super PACs were inevitable and what effect they had on the election. Green 2019 discusses such claims without a definitive conclusion. Christenson and Smidt 2014 argues that they did distort the 2012 election, but Hansen, et al. 2015 contends that their effect was overstated by opponents. Some studies of the 2016 election have focused on the imbalance of super PAC spending between the two major party candidates; one such study (Fowler, et al. 2016a, cited under Political Advertising) finds that super PACs were less influential in the 2016 presidential election than they had been in 2012. Another study, Sebold and Dowdle 2018, explores the effect of super PAC spending on presidential candidate fundraising.

  • Christenson, Dino P., and Corwin D. Smidt. “Following the Money: Super PACs and the 2012 Presidential Nomination.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 44.3 (2014): 410–430.

    DOI: 10.1111/psq.12130Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds that super PACs prolonged the presidential primary and strengthened the campaigns of long-shot candidates.

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  • Currinder, Marian. “Campaign Finance: Where Big Money Mattered and Where It Didn’t.” In The Elections of 2016. Edited by Michael Nelson, 137–164. Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press, 2018.

    DOI: 10.4135/9781483349343.n6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An overview of presidential campaign finance, with a focus on who some of the donors to presidential super PACs were.

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  • Green, John C. “Financing the 2016 Presidential Nomination Campaigns.” In Financing the 2016 Election. Edited by David B. Magleby, 131–186. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2019.

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    An exploration of super PAC spending in the presidential primaries; evaluates claims that super PACs distorted the election outcome or prolonged the primary campaign.

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  • Hansen, Wendy L., Michael S. Rocca, and Brittany Leigh Ortiz. “The Effects of Citizens United on Corporate Spending in the 2012 Presidential Election.” Journal of Politics 77.2 (2015): 535–545.

    DOI: 10.1086/680077Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A study of political spending by corporations before and after Citizens United; concludes that the decision increased corporate spending and increased the abilities of corporations to spend money, but cautions that corporations will still have pressure from stockholders and consumers not to spend excessively.

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  • Hopkins, David. “Financing the 2016 Presidential General Election.” In Financing the 2016 Election. Edited by David B. Magleby, 187–216. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2019.

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    Descriptive account of spending in the 2016 presidential election by different types of organizations.

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  • Sebold, Karen, and Andrew J. Dowdle. “Can ‘Letting in Sunlight’ Lead to Accidental Sunburn? The Unintended Consequences of Campaign Finance Reform on the Financing of U.S. Presidential Candidates.” Election Law Journal 17.3 (2018): 209–220.

    DOI: 10.1089/elj.2018.0517Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the increase in small contributions over the past decade and discusses the effects of super PACs on candidates’ fundraising strategies.

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State and Local Elections

Variations in state campaign finance law provide opportunities to test the effects of many different reform proposals. They have also enabled political scientists to assess the likely effects of some provisions of Citizens United before they actually occurred. Hamm, et al. 2014, for instance, measures corporate spending at the state level before rules on corporate spending at the federal level were relaxed. Malbin, et al. 2011 and Malbin, et al. 2012 evaluate public financing laws at the local level, in part, to determine their feasibility at the federal level. La Raja and Schaffner 2015 and Barber 2016 both caution that a system reliant on small individual donors may have the perverse effect of increasing polarization in the legislature. While state politics can serve as a laboratory for predicting changes at the federal level, state elections were also affected by the Citizens United decision. La Raja and Schaffner 2014 cautions that spending limits that have been proposed at the federal level have not been effective in the states. Wiltse 2012 and Marshall 2013 present conflicting interpretations of whether state political culture and history are important reasons for the federal government to allow states to impose restrictions that are not permissible at the federal level.

Effects on Different Political Actors

Political parties and interest groups tend to be treated differently in campaign finance law; they face different restrictions on their activities and in the sources and limits of their donations. Although there is some overlap, researchers have often asked questions specifically about the effects of regulatory change on different groups, types of groups, or on parties.

Super PACs

Independent expenditure-only PACs, commonly known as super PACs, are perhaps the best-known consequences of the Citizens United decision, yet many misperceptions exist about what they are and what they are able to do. Dowling and Miller 2014 explores some of these misperceptions and presents an overview of super PAC activities and effects. It has also long been clear that substantial diversity is found among super PACs. Several studies (Boatright 2015; Dwyre and Braz 2015; Herrnson, et al 2018; Magleby 2014; and Scala 2014) have sought to develop typologies of super PACs. Farrar-Myers and Skinner 2012 explores the effects of super PACs on the issues discussed during campaigns, and Gulati 2012 discusses the effect of super PACs on aggregate campaign spending. Many studies discussed elsewhere in this article consider the relationship between super PACs and other types of political organizations. Smith and Powell 2014 differs from these studies in that the authors look at how the activities of professional campaign consultants have been changed by the advent of super PACs.

  • Boatright, Robert G. “Campaign Finance Law and Functional Differentiation among Nonparty Groups in the United States.” In The Deregulatory Moment? Comparative Perspectives on Changing Campaign Finance Laws. Edited by Robert G. Boatright, 71–104. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2015.

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    Argues that many super PACs active in 2012 were driven by the idiosyncratic concerns of individual wealthy donors and thus worked at odds with parties and traditional interest groups.

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  • Dowling, Conor M., and Michael G. Miller. Super PAC! Money, Elections, and Voters after Citizens United. New York: Routledge, 2014.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203509074Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Addresses voter knowledge of and misperceptions about super PACs. Distinguishes the behavior of super PACs from the behavior of traditional PACs, with particular reference to advertising strategy.

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  • Dwyre, Diana, and Evelyn Braz. “Super PAC Spending Strategies and Goals.” The Forum 13.2 (2015): 245–267.

    DOI: 10.1515/for-2015-0020Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Develops a typology of super PACs based on their spending decisions; concludes that super PACs allocate money differently from traditional PACs and are more interested in influencing elections than in access to legislators.

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  • Farrar-Myers, Victoria, and Richard Skinner. “Super PACs and the 2012 Elections.” The Forum 10 (2012): 105–118.

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    Shows spending totals for major super PACs in 2012; discusses functional coordination between groups and parties. Speculates about the ability of super PACs to control the content of campaign messages.

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  • Gulati, Girish Jeff. “Super PACs and Financing the 2012 Presidential Election.” Society 49.5 (2012): 409–417.

    DOI: 10.1007/s12115-012-9575-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Evaluates claims about the influence of super PACs in the 2012 election; Gulati is skeptical that super PACs actually did increase general election spending over what it otherwise would have been. He also finds little evidence that super PACs unduly helped or hurt primary candidates.

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  • Herrnson, Paul S., Jennifer A. Heerweg, and Douglas M. Spencer. “The Impact of Organizational Characteristics on Super PAC Financing.” In The State of the Parties 2018: The Changing Role of Contemporary American Political Parties. 8th ed. Edited by John C. Green, Daniel J. Coffey, and David B. Cohen, 248–262. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018.

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    Shows that different types of funding sources lead to different types of super PAC spending choices.

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  • Magleby, David B. “Classifying Super PACs.” In The State of the Parties. 7th ed. Edited by John Green, Daniel Coffey, and David Cohen, 231–250. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

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    Seeks to understand the different types of super PACs that emerged by 2012, sorting them into party-centered, candidate-centered, and interest group–centered. Explores the strategy and incentives of each.

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  • Scala, Dante. “Are Super PACs Arms of Political Parties?” In The American Election 2012: Contexts and Consequences. Edited by R. Ward Holder and Peter Josephson, 69–80. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781137389220_7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores functional coordination between super PACs and party campaign committees; shows that there is more coordination among Democratic organizations than among Republican organizations.

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  • Smith, Melissa M., and Larry Powell. Dark Money, Super PACs, and the 2012 Election. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014.

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    A summary of some of the activities of super PACs in 2012, with particular attention to their effect on the political consulting profession.

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501(c) or “Dark Money” Groups

So-called “dark money” campaign spending, conducted by nonprofit groups organized under sections 501(c)(4), (c)(5), and (c)(6) of the federal tax code, is by definition difficult to measure or to connect to individual donors. Such spending has increased over the past decade, and the Citizens United decision lifted some restrictions on how such money could be used in elections. Citizens know less about this type of spending than they do about spending by super PACs or other political entities that fully disclose their donors. Aprill 2011 explains laws regulating the spending of 501(c) groups, and Kirby 2015 provides a history of such organizations. Drutman 2016 offers a summary of estimated spending by 501(c) groups since 2010. Chand 2015 and Gerken 2014 explore proposals to restrict the spending of 501(c) groups or to require more disclosure from them. Mayer 2016 and Vogel 2014 are among the best-known journalistic accounts of some of the most prominent donors to 501(c) organizations.

  • Aprill, Ellen P. “Regulating the Political Speech of Noncharitable Exempt Organizations after Citizens United.” Election Law Journal 10 (2011): 363–405.

    DOI: 10.1089/elj.2011.0109Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A summary of IRS laws regulating 501(c)(4) groups and potential changes to these laws.

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  • Chand, Daniel. “Anonymous Money in Campaigns: Is Sunlight the Best Disinfectant?” The Forum 13.2 (2015): 269–288.

    DOI: 10.1515/for-2015-0019Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds that dark money groups in 2010 and 2012 tended to be more conservative than other types of political organizations; speculates that increased disclosure will reduce spending by such groups.

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  • Drutman, Lee. “The Rise of Dark Money.” In Interest Group Politics. 9th ed. Edited by Allan J. Cigler, Burdett A. Loomis, and Anthony J. Nownes, 135–154. Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press, 2016.

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    Summarizes increases in 501(c)(4) spending and contends that disclosure laws will become eroded over time as more of the disclosed contributions to super PACs will come from untraceable dark money sources.

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  • Gerken, Heather K. “The Real Problem with Citizens United: Campaign Finance, Dark Money, and Shadow Parties.” Marquette Law Review 97.4 (2014): 903–923.

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    Considers 501(c) group spending as a matter of corruption—although citizens will not necessarily know the sources of dark money, candidates may, which enables corrupt practices to occur without voter knowledge of them. Gerken claims, however, that dark money outlets are more likely to be used by party elites than by corporations.

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  • Kirby, Daniel C. “Legal Quagmire of IRC Sec. 501(c)(4) Organizations and the Consequential Rise of Dark Money in Elections.” Chicago-Kent Law Review 90.1 (2015): 223–246.

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    Summarizes the history of the political spending of 501(c)(4) groups, and argues that the Citizens United decision and subsequent increase in 501(c)(4) spending makes it necessary for IRS rules regarding such groups’ permissible activities to be clarified.

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  • Mayer, Jane. Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires behind the Rise of the Radical Right. New York: Doubleday, 2016.

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    A journalistic account of political activities of Charles and Edward Koch, generally considered to be the most influential contributors to “dark money” organizations.

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  • Vogel, Kenneth P. Big Money: 2.5 Billion Dollars, One Suspicious Vehicle, and a Pimp—on the Trail of the Ultra-Rich Hijacking American Politics. New York: PublicAffairs, 2014.

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    A journalistic account of dark money spending and of some of the venues in which such contributions are solicited.

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Political Parties

Early work on the Citizens United decision predicted that it would substantially harm the ability of political parties to raise money, and that super PACs would directly compete with parties for the ability to establish issue themes in elections. Brox 2013 discusses the logic of this claim. It is generally held to be the case that political parties are at a disadvantage relative to other political organizations, as La Raja 2013 and Baker 2015 document. Dwyre 2018 and Dwyre and Kolodny 2019 show that much of the spending of super PACs has reinforced party goals. However, super PACs do have fewer constraints than parties, as Dwyre 2015 shows. While La Raja 2013 argues that contribution limits for parties should be loosened to enable them to compete with super PACs, Malbin 2014 is troubled by such proposals. While most of these pieces discuss fundraising by the national party committees, Roscoe and Jenkins 2016 documents changes in the fundraising practices and activities of local party committees.

  • Baker, Anne. “The Fundraising Disadvantages Confronting American Political Parties.” The Forum 13.2 (2015): 223–244.

    DOI: 10.1515/for-2015-0016Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines spending data for parties and super PACs; concludes that the fundraising costs for parties are much higher than those of super PACs, putting parties at a disadvantage in terms of campaign spending efficiency.

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  • Brox, Brian. Back in the Game: Political Party Campaigning in an Era of Reform. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2013.

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    Drawing on interviews with party leaders, shows that during the 2000s parties have become much more interested in using independent expenditures to pursue policy goals and influence elections. Speculates that the 2010 election may have been the beginning of a turn toward “anti-partyism” among the most prominent election spenders.

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  • Dwyre, Diana. “Campaign Finance Deregulation in the United States: What Has Changed and Why Does It Matter?” In The Deregulatory Moment: A Comparative Perspective on Changing Campaign Finance Laws. Edited by Robert Boatright, 33–70. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2015.

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    Evaluates different normative claims regarding the changed balance between party and super PAC spending. Concludes that the accountability function of parties is harmed by increased reliance on super PACs.

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  • Dwyre, Diana. “Everything Is Relative: Are Political Parties Playing a Meaningful Campaign Finance Role in U.S. Federal Elections?” In The State of the Parties 2018: The Changing Role of Contemporary American Political Parties. 8th ed. Edited by John C. Green, Daniel J. Coffey, and David B. Cohen, 223–247. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018.

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    Argues that super PACs have largely served as part of the extended party network; their spending has essentially reinforced the goals of the party campaign committees.

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  • Dwyre, Diana, and Robin Kolodny. “Party Money in the 2016 Elections.” In Financing the 2016 Election. Edited by David B. Magleby, 251–298. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2019.

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    A summary of patterns in party spending from 1998 through 2012; argues that super PAC spending mostly reinforced party goals, but raises concerns that super PACs are less accountable than parties.

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  • La Raja, Raymond J. “Why Super PACs? How the American Party System Outgrew the Campaign Finance System.” The Forum 10.4 (2013): 91–104.

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    Contends that contribution limits for parties, PACs, and candidates have failed to keep up with rising campaign costs; thus, super PACs have served as an important outlet for money pushed into the political system. La Raja claims that one response for those concerned about the development of super PACs would be to substantially increase contribution limits for parties and candidates.

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  • Malbin, Michael. “McCutcheon Could Lead to No Limits for Political Parties—With What Implications for Parties and Interest Groups?” New York University Law Review Online 89.92 (2014): 92–104.

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    Removing restrictions on parties’ ability to raise money will enable parties to compete with super PACs but will increase parties’ reliance on wealthy donors and deter them from building a base of small contributors.

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  • Roscoe, Douglas D., and Shannon Jenkins. Local Party Organizations in the Twenty-First Century. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2016.

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    Draws on interviews to explore fundraising practices among local party organizations.

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Traditional Interest Groups

At the time of the 2010 election, many existing interest groups were well positioned to take advantage of the Citizens United ruling. They already had experience engaging in independent advocacy spending, and the decision merely lifted restrictions on things that they already did. Herrnson, et al. 2013 provides case studies of several groups that existed before 2010 but were able to expand their activities or their resources. Boatright 2011 shows the progression during the 2000s in what such organizations were capable of. By 2012, however, new super PACs had emerged that had no ties to preexisting organizations. Franz 2012 and Magleby and Goodliffe 2019 compare the activities of new and old groups in that year’s election. It gradually became apparent that the types of people who donate to such groups have different goals from those of traditional PAC donors or donors to candidates, as Barber 2016 shows. Franz, et al. 2016; Issacharoff and Peterman 2013; and Dwyre and Braz 2015 (cited under Super PACs) show that super PACs developed organizational structures and expenditure patterns different from preexisting groups, a development that gave many of them an advantage over ongoing groups in their ability to raise and spend money.

  • Barber, Michael. “Donor Motivations: Testing Theories of Access and Ideology.” Political Research Quarterly 69.1 (2016): 148–159.

    DOI: 10.1177/1065912915624164Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A survey of individual contributors; concludes that individual contributors have more extreme ideological views than PACs; thus, limits on PAC contributions lead to a more extreme donor base.

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  • Boatright, Robert G. Interest Groups and Campaign Finance Reform in the United States and Canada. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.3998/mpub.2485161Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contends that American interest groups have traditionally sought to push the boundaries of what is acceptable in campaign finance law (in contrast to groups in other countries). Shows that most groups adapted successfully to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, and predicts similar success in responses to Citizens United.

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  • Franz, Michael. “Interest Groups in Electoral Politics: 2012 in Context.” The Forum 10 (2012): 62–79.

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    Shows that interest groups played a greater role in funding the 2012 election than they had in prior years; raises normative concerns about a shift away from a system in which parties and candidates dominate and suggests some reforms to increase the proportion of spending by parties and candidates.

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  • Franz, Michael M., Erika Franklin Fowler, and Travis N. Ridout. “Loose Cannons or Loyal Foot Soldiers? Toward a More Complex Theory of Interest Group Advertising Strategies.” American Journal of Political Science 60.3 (2016): 738–751.

    DOI: 10.1111/ajps.12241Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Compares super PAC and other interest group spending strategies to those of party committees; concludes that new groups tend to support the same issues and candidates as parties.

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  • Herrnson, Paul S., Christopher J. Deering, and Clyde Wilcox, eds. Interest Groups Unleashed. Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press, 2013.

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    A set of case studies of the behavior of many ongoing interest groups in 2010; most chapters show that the most successful super PACs in 2010 were connected to large business and labor organizations that had spent large amounts of money in prior elections. While more money was spent in 2010, it was not necessarily different in its sources or intentions.

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  • Issacharoff, Samuel, and Jeremy Peterman. “Special Interests after Citizens United: Access, Replacement, and Interest Group Response to Legal Change.” Annual Review of Law and Social Science 9.1 (2013): 185–205.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev-lawsocsci-102612-133930Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that super PACs did not replace existing interest groups; most ongoing interest groups are at least partially concerned with access to lawmakers while super PACs are primarily concerned with influencing election results.

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  • Magleby, David B., and Jay Goodliffe. “Interest Groups in the 2016 Election.” In Financing the 2016 Election. Edited by David B. Magleby, 87–130. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2019.

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    A descriptive account of interest group spending in the 2016 election, with an analysis of how much super PACs have influenced fundraising and spending by ongoing PACs and other type of interest groups. Shows that some super PACs have effectively served as extensions of existing interest groups.

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Evaluating Changes in Campaign Finance Regulation

Most studies have explored changing campaign finance laws as they have affected overall spending and political competition. The Citizens United decision has not just influenced how much can be spent by whom, however; it has also had repercussions for how elections are conducted. The studies below concern the content of campaign communications and their effect on the public.

Political Advertising

A large literature exists on political advertising, much of which is not particularly concerned with the relationship between advertising and campaign finance law. One noteworthy feature of such laws, however, is that different types of political organizations have different requirements in terms of what they must disclose in their advertisements, whom they may coordinate with, and what they can say about candidates. These differences can shape the amount of money such groups can raise and the types of donors who support them. Smith, et al. 2010 summarizes this relationship as it stood in 2010, at the time of the Citizens United decision, and Miller 2017 discusses the evolution of this relationship in more recent elections. Fowler, et al. 2016a provides a description of the political issues addressed in political advertising. Other studies address smaller pieces of the relationship between group type and advertising. Brooks and Murov 2012 and Dowling and Wichowsky 2013 measure the effects of ads without disclosure of who paid for the ad. Election-specific studies, such as Fowler and Ridout 2012; Ridout, et al. 2014; and Fowler, et al. 2016b, documents the differences over the 2012–2016 election cycles between different sponsor types in how much money was spent on ads and what the tone of these ads was. Wesleyan Media Project and Center for Responsive Politics 2016 provides an overview comparing the post–Citizens United elections to those that preceded them.

Disclosure

One question prompted by the increase in “dark money” spending is what the appropriate level of political disclosure is and what the consequences are of disclosing donor identities to the public. Some legal studies, such as Torres-Spelliscy 2011, have explored whether a legal rationale exists for enhanced disclosure laws. While advocates of such laws have argued that the public will benefit from knowing more about the identities of those who spend money in elections, many studies question how one might measure the consequences. Carpenter and Milyo 2013 concludes that disclosing donor information provides no clear benefits in state elections. Sances 2013 contends that in experimental settings voters learn more about candidates from donor disclosure. However, La Raja 2014 finds negative effects from disclosure on small contributors, and Primo 2013 finds no informational benefits. Heerwig and Shaw 2014 notes, however, that disclosure laws are not very well enforced, and so actual disclosure practices fall short of what some proponents may want.

  • Carpenter, Dick M., and Jeffrey Milyo. “The Public’s Right to Know versus Compelled Speech: What Does Social Science Research Tell Us about the Benefits and Costs of Campaign Finance Disclosure in Non-candidate Elections?” Fordham Urban Law Journal 40 (2013): 603–637.

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    An exploration of state disclosure laws in referendums, ballot initiatives, and other noncandidate elections. Concludes that there is little legal rationale and few public benefits to requiring disclosure in such circumstances.

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  • Heerwig, Jennifer, and Katherine Shaw. “Through a Glass Darkly: The Rhetoric and Reality of Campaign Finance Disclosure.” Georgetown Law Journal 102 (2014): 1443–1500.

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    Draws on Federal Election Commission records from past elections to show that enforcement of disclosure rules is inconsistent and that disclosure, in practice, falls far short of what is desired or assumed by the courts.

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  • La Raja, Ray J. “Political Participation and Civic Courage: The Negative Effect of Transparency on Making Small Campaign Contributions.” Political Behavior 36.4 (2014): 753–776.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11109-013-9259-8Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows that disclosure laws deter many citizens from making political contributions.

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  • Primo, David M. “Information at the Margin: Campaign Finance Disclosure Laws, Ballot Issues, and Voter Knowledge.” Election Law Journal 12.2 (2013): 114–129.

    DOI: 10.1089/elj.2012.0161Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A study of the informational benefits of disclosure laws; concludes that disclosure does not provide enough information to undecided voters to influence their decisions.

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  • Sances, Michael. “Is Money in Politics Harming Trust in Government? Evidence from Two Survey Experiments.” Election Law Journal 12.1 (2013): 53–73.

    DOI: 10.1089/elj.2012.0181Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Experimental study that shows that voters’ knowledge about candidate ideology increases with disclosure; limited evidence that disclosure reduces voters’ confidence in government.

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  • Torres-Spelliscy, Ciara. “Hiding behind the Tax Code: The Dark Election of 2010 and Why Tax-Exempt Entities Should Be Subject to Robust Federal Campaign Finance Disclosure Laws.” Nexus: Chapman’s Journal of Law and Policy 16 (2011): 57–95.

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    Explores case history regarding governmental disclosure laws; makes the case that the Federal Election Commission can increase disclosure requirements for nonprofits without violating Citizens United.

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Coordination

The literature on coordination has not developed as much as other recent literatures, in part because of the difficulty in proving that coordination between groups and parties or candidates has occurred. Smith 2013 proposes a very narrow definition of coordination, while Briffault 2013 offers a somewhat more expansive definition.

  • Briffault, Richard. “Coordination Reconsidered.” Columbia Law Review Sidebar 113 (2013): 88–101.

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    Holds that the movement of staff members across different types of campaign organizations constitutes evidence of coordination.

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  • Smith, Bradley A. “Super PACs and the Role of ‘Coordination’ in Campaign Finance Law.” Willamette Law Review 49 (2013): 603–636.

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    Argues that coordination is very difficult to prove and that coordination restrictions are impractical; groups and parties are able to learn enough about each other’s goals through observation, so activities that appear to be coordinated may not be.

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Corruption

Much of the debate since 2010 on campaign finance reform has focused upon how to create new regulations that will be acceptable to the Supreme Court. Some proposals (such as La Raja 2014, cited under Disclosure) have argued for loosening restrictions on party and candidate spending; others (not considered in detail in academic literature) have proposed amending the Constitution. Many of the more detailed arguments, however, have sought to expand the Court’s definition of corruption. Lessig 2012 and Teachout 2014 are two examples of this. Painter 2016 adapts such arguments in a manner designed to connect them to conservative principles. Kuhner 2014 presents an economic analysis of the costs of regulation and deregulation of political spending. Kang 2016 draws on several of the arguments cited in Political Parties to explore whether strengthening parties would be a viable course. Miller 2014, in contrast, emphasizes that public financing has been held by the Court to be permissible, and seeks to make a normative case that it should be expanded, regardless of whether Citizens United stands.

  • Kang, Michael S. “The Brave New World of Party Campaign Finance Law.” Cornell Law Review 101 (2016): 531–607.

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    Explores proposals to deregulate party spending; contends that such efforts should proceed with caution and should be evaluated with regard to their effects on the wealth and political power of party donors (as discussed under Political Inequality).

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  • Kuhner, Timothy K. Capitalism v. Democracy: Money in Politics and the Free Market Constitution. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014.

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    An economic analysis of the consequences of super PAC spending; claims that political groups create externalities for the health of the political system and that regulations should be designed to take these into account.

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  • Lessig, Lawrence. Republic, Lost. New York: Twelve, 2012.

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    Develops a theory of “dependence corruption” in which the Supreme Court’s corruption criterion can be satisfied by showing that campaign finance laws render Congress corrupt because it is improperly dependent on contributors rather than on voters.

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  • Miller, Michael G. Subsidizing Democracy: How Public Funding Changes Elections and How It Can Work in the Future. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014.

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    Explores many different effects of public financing, showing that the availability of public funding in an election alters the issues discussed and the behavior of all candidates, whether or not they accept public funds. Some discussion of how public financing will be influenced by the presence of super PACs and how it might be tailored to assist candidates who are the target of large independent expenditures.

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  • Painter, Richard W. Taxation Only with Representation: The Conservative Conscience and Campaign Finance Reform. Auburn, AL: Take Back Our Republic, 2016.

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    Presents an avowedly conservative argument against Citizens United; alleges that unregulated spending corrupts politics because it leads to excessive regulation; privileges for-profit over not-for-profit enterprises such as churches and religious groups; and privileges unrepresentative interests.

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  • Teachout, Zephyr. Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014.

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    Presents an argument that contemporary campaign finance practices are corrupt as defined by early American politicians. Teachout argues for substantial reform of campaign finance law, including repeal of Citizens United but also stricter revolving door laws, disclosure, vouchers, and public financing.

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Public Opinion and Support for the Political System

Studies of public opinion on campaign finance law generally conclude that the public is broadly supportive of many different types of regulations but that citizens do not prioritize campaign finance reform over other policy actions. There is, in addition, little evidence that voters know very much about existing law or would feel differently about campaign finance practices were the law to be changed. A common concern in many of these works is the Court’s claim in Buckley v. Valeo that the “appearance of corruption” was a permissible rationale for reform; such an “appearance” has been taken to suggest that public sentiment about campaign finance matters in policymaking. Persily and Lammie 2004 demonstrates this problem. Bowler and Donovan 2016 updates these findings with reference to citizen beliefs about corruption. Blass, et al. 2012 and Kelly 2016 find that citizens’ beliefs about corruption have little impact on their political activities. Miller and Panagopoulos 2011 finds a similar lack of connection between public financing and citizens’ views. However, Brown and Martin 2015 shows in an experimental setting that when citizens are informed of current regulations their faith in democracy is reduced, and Hardy, et al. 2014 shows that entertainment news discussion of campaign finance increases the importance citizens assign to reform.

  • Blass, Abby, Brian Roberts, and Daron Shaw. “Corruption, Political Participation, and Appetite for Reform: Americans’ Assessment of the Role of Money in Politics.” Election Law Journal 11.4 (2012): 380–398.

    DOI: 10.1089/elj.2011.0120Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Uses a survey on citizens’ perceptions of the role of money in politics. Finds that citizens’ beliefs about corruption are unrelated to citizens’ propensity to engage in politics.

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  • Bowler, Shaun, and Todd Donovan. “Campaign Money, Congress, and Perceptions of Corruption.” American Politics Research 44.2 (2016): 272–295.

    DOI: 10.1177/1532673X15594232Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    As with the earlier Persily and Lammie 2004, concludes that citizens’ perceptions of corruption are not necessarily based on actual levels of corruption in politics.

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  • Brown, Rebecca L., and Andrew D. Martin. “Rhetoric and Reality: Testing the Harm of Campaign Spending.” New York University Law Review 90 (2015): 1066–1094.

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    Survey experiment showing that citizens’ faith in democracy is reduced by hypothetical scenarios approximating Citizens United. Result, then, is that corruption is not the issue so much as a general sense of democracy’s well-being.

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  • Hardy, Bruce W., Jeffrey A. Gottfried, Kenneth M. Winneg, and Kathleen Hall Jamieson. “Stephen Colbert’s Civics Lesson: How Colbert Super PAC Taught Viewers about Campaign Finance.” Mass Communication and Society 17.3 (2014): 329–353.

    DOI: 10.1080/15205436.2014.891138Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Experiment showing that citizens who viewed Stephen Colbert’s program gained a greater understanding of campaign finance law regarding 501(c)(4) groups and super PACs.

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  • Kelly, Kristin J. “Political Quid Pro Quo and the Impact of Perceptions of Corruption on Democratic Behavior.” Election Law Journal 15.2 (2016): 160–174.

    DOI: 10.1089/elj.2015.0298Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Draws on two different surveys to show that citizens who perceive high levels of corruption in government are more likely to engage in politics than those who do not.

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  • Miller, Michael G., and Costas Panagopoulos. “Public Financing, Attitudes toward Government and Politics, and Efficacy.” In Public Financing in American Elections. Edited by Costas Panagopoulos, 238–248. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011.

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    Discusses surveys on the effect of public financing on satisfaction with government; concludes that there is little relationship.

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  • Persily, Nathaniel, and Kelli Lammie. “Perceptions of Corruption and Campaign Finance: When Public Opinion Determines Campaign Finance Law.” University of Pennsylvania Law Review 153 (2004): 119–180.

    DOI: 10.2307/4150623Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An older but still relevant article evaluating citizen knowledge about campaign finance law; concludes that citizens’ perceptions about political corruption are not necessarily influenced by changes in the law. Standards regarding perceptions of corruption will therefore be unreliable as a guide for regulating any form of campaign finance.

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Political Inequality

Although the studies listed in this subsection are not strictly about campaign finance, they all raise concerns about the increased role that the very wealthy play in financing elections, and about the potential relationship between a system reliant on the very wealthy and the policy outcomes of such a system. Major studies of political inequality, such as Gilens 2012, emphasize that candidates reliant on contributions from the very wealthy will pursue policies that benefit the very wealthy. Page, et al. 2019 and West 2014 demonstrate that large campaign contributors have very different policy views from the average American citizen. Achen and Bartels 2016 and Bonica, et al. 2013 connect the erosion of democratic norms to this pattern, and they suggest that the political system will not easily develop a means of catering more to less wealthy voters.

  • Achen, Christopher H., and Larry M. Bartels. Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016.

    DOI: 10.1515/9781400882731Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This book argues that most “folk theories” of democracy assume a more rational, knowledgeable electorate than actually exists. This poses a problem for addressing rising inequality—most measures to stem this, particularly with regard to campaign finance, make unrealistic assumptions about how citizens will respond to changes.

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  • Bonica, Adam, Nolan McCarty, Keith E. Poole, and Howard Rosenthal. “Why Hasn’t Democracy Slowed Rising Inequality?” Journal of Economic Perspectives 27.3 (2013): 103–124.

    DOI: 10.1257/jep.27.3.103Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores five different reasons why the US political system has failed to stop inequality from increasing over the past four decades. The reliance of politicians on wealthy contributors is one of these reasons; authors show an increase in the percent of campaign funds coming from these donors. This increase preceded the Citizens United decision but may be exacerbated by it.

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  • Gilens, Martin. Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt7s1jnSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A study of the relationship between federal policy and the preferences of wealthy donors; concludes that there is no relationship between mass preferences and policy, but elite opinions do tend to shape policymaking in many areas.

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  • Page, Benjamin I., Jason Seawright, and Matthew J. Lacombe. Billionaires and Stealth Politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019.

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    Survey on the political preferences and activities of the top one-tenth of 1 percent of Americans; explores the ability of these individuals to engage in politics and influence elections through donations and other types of political contacts.

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  • West, Darrell. Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2014.

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    A historical study of political activism and philanthropy on the part of the wealthy in the United States. West explores some of the positive and negative aspects of participation by wealthy citizens in government.

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