Historically, federal law prohibited corporations and unions from using their funds in financially supporting political candidates within thirty days of any primary. The law, therefore, prohibited any “electioneering communication” which was defined as advertising in support of any identified candidate on any” broadcast, cable, or satellite.” The concern in prohibiting corporations and unions from making financial contributions directly to candidates was that significant amounts of contributions would have a corrosive effect on the political process, with a tendency to corrupt individual politicians.
David N. Bossie was the president of the non-profit corporations, Citizens United and Citizens United Foundation since 2001. Citizens United produced documentaries that were critical of Hillary Clinton. Bossie was mindful of the statutory restrictions, in which the Federal Elections Commission could seek both civil and criminal penalties against Citizens United, for making corporation contributions to support or defeat individual candidates.
Anticipating a legal action, after Citizens United released a documentary critical of Senator Hillary Clinton, Bossie sought protection from the courts. He argued that the statute restricting corporate spending was unconstitutional and violated Citizens United First Amendment Rights rights to free speech. The Supreme Court, jumping through some legal hurdles, held that the free speech rights of Corporations would be violated and ruled for Citizens United.
Under the ruling of Citizens United, corporations and unions made unlimited contributions. As a result of Citizens United, those contributing to Super PACs need not disclose their names and affiliations. Thus, small groups of very wealthy individuals had an extraordinary influence over the outcomes of elections. Billions of dollars were raised and paid to individuals as candidates for the 2016 election season.
While Democrats funded their Super PACs, Republicans, being better prepared, substantially benefited from Bossies’s decision to open up the stream of funds, which helped many Republican candidates. However, in 2016 a political action committee, End Citizens United PAC, a committed group of Democrats, has raised at least 11 million dollars with the projection of raising up to $35 million dollars for the purpose of electing Democrats in the next two and four-year cycle of political campaigns.
Up to 100,000 people contributed to the PAC for the first quarter of 2017. The interest in ending the impact of Citizens United drew at least 40,000 individuals who gave at the average of $12 each. The goal is not only to elect Democrats but to defeat Citizen United with campaign finance reform legislation.
Just around the corner, on April 11, 2017, the first test of the Trump effect is in two special elections. End Citizens United has been at the forefront in the donation which produced $500,000 to fund the congressional campaign of Democrat Jon Ossoff, a novice political candidate in Georgia.