In the years before the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (CU), independent expenditures (IEs) in state elections were dominated by formal state and local party organizations and labor unions. In the years since then, IEs have increased while state parties and labor unions have fallen dramatically in their relative position. Among the ascendant have been national, party-affiliated organizations (such as the Republican and Democratic Governors Associations) and – most dramatically – single-issue organizations funded by wealthy mega-donors.
These conclusions appeared in a working paper released today by the Campaign Finance Institute (CFI), a division of the National Institute on Money in Politics. The paper was originally presented on August 30 at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association. The authors are: Michael J. Malbin (CFI’s Director and Professor at the University at Albany, SUNY), Jaclyn Kettler (Boise State University), Charles R. Hunt (University of Maryland), Brendan Glavin (CFI) and Keith Hamm (Rice University).
The paper also examines two proposals that are intended to offset the effects of Citizens United by removing the limits on contributions to candidates and political parties. By leveraging comparative state data, the paper finds that proposals such as these are not likely to turn the donors who underwrite ideological and issue groups toward funding the candidates and parties. The complete abstract for the paper is reproduced below.