Citizens United went on the books as law in 2010, after its chief architect, James Bopp, was laughed out of court for laying what would be the foundation of the law. For those unfamiliar with the law, it can be viewed as a sweeping deregulation of the campaign-finance system. Under Citizens United, potential donors can spend nearly unlimited amounts of money to support candidates by creating Political Action Committees. Bopp, as a lawyer at the helm of many non-profit organizations, had been taking on scattered campaign-finance court cases for years before he got his big break with the passage of Citizens United.
His strategy has been a busy one. He takes on cases all over the country that involve campaign-finance at a state level, and these similar cases often receive different rulings. When appellate courts disagree, the case moves up the food chain, with the standstills eventually being resolved by the Supreme Court. James Bopp argues on behalf of his clients in the name of the First Amendment, positing that a person’s or corporation’s campaign financing is equivalent to their speech. According to Bopp, then, any government-imposed limit on spending is also a government mandate on how much someone can say.
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This law has seen a variety of stark opposition. One such opposing entity is End Citizens United, a political action committee, or PAC, with the stated goal of getting big money out of politics. This year’s first quarter saw the group pulling in an impressive $4 million dollars in funds. As the nation winds down to the midterm elections in 2018, End Citizens United is projected to balloon that number into $35 million dollars towards their cause. This number would be a $10 million-dollar upshot from the money raised during the previous election year. Of the 100,000 donors who have contributed to this PAC this year, 40,000 of them were first-time givers.
The means through which End Citizens United intend to overturn the law are elections of congressional candidates who support finance-reform, such as the democratic candidate Jon Ossoff who ran to fill Tom Price’s seat in Georgia. The committee has its eye on several other candidates, and is staying vigilant with regards to the upcoming race. The PAC is also committed to engaging other campaign finance groups to urge senators who have a hand in voting for people who had financed them in the past to recuse themselves from such votes. One such example was Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education. Since Trump’s election, the group has said that they are just getting started, and will continue to lobby for the overturn of Citizen’s United.