Peg Perl (Harvard Law & Policy Review)-
Today is the sixth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The electorate has survived three election cycles of being bombarded by advertising funded by almost unlimited amounts of outside group spending in candidate races from local school board to President of the United States, most of it minimally disclosed—if at all. Yet, the major political parties are arguing publicly that they—not the voters—are the true victims of the Citizens United ruling.
As early as 2010, there was some argument that keeping political parties subject to contribution limitations and prohibitions while also enforcing robust public disclosure would harm parties vis a vis outside groups. National as well as some state-level Republican Party committees brought federal lawsuits immediately after Citizens United challenging limitations on political party contributions on constitutional grounds. The Fifth Circuit rejected the challenge, stating “we do not read Citizens United as changing how this court should evaluate contribution limits on political parties and PACs.” The special three-judge panel set up to rule on challenges to modern campaign finance law also upheld political party contribution limits, and the U.S. Supreme Court summarily affirmed on direct appeal. The three-judge panel in that case told the parties that the arguments about disparity between political parties and outside groups in spending and contribution restrictions was not a constitutional violation, but instead a policy argument to be made to Congress.