In January 2010. the United States Supreme Court came out with a game-chasing decision known as the Citizens United ruling. It’s had a far-reaching effect on political campaigning and elections. By a vote of 5-4, the 9 justices voted to eliminate the ban on how much money corporations and unions can donate to elect or defeat individual candidates. It said in effect both corporations and unions could spend as much money as they wished on individual candidates for political office. However, the ruling does not affect the ban on contribution limits. They still may not contribute more to a candidate’s campaign funds. They may, however, finance their own efforts.
Therefore, this paved the way for super PACs. These political action campaigns are allowed to raise and spend as much money from the wealthy, corporations, nonprofits and unions as they can. However, they are independent of the campaign funds raised and run by the specific candidates. The super PACs are required to disclose their donors. The Supreme Court basically held that it was unconstitutional to limit these organizations from spending money to express their opinions. However, they kept a division between expressing opinion and direct support that could result in corruption.
In March 2015, a group named End Citizens United PAC formed with the intention to overturn this Supreme Court decision by electing Democrats to public office. It was founded by three online fundraising experts who used to work for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: Greg Berlin, Jake Lipsett and Charles Starnes. Tiffany Muller is the president of the PAC and its executive director.
In their first year, using an aggressive email campaign asking people to contribute to defeat Republicans, they raised $11 million. They raised a total of $25 million in time for the 2016 election.
According to USA TODAY, End Citizens United collected over $4 million just in the first three months of 2017. They intend to raise $35 million by the beginning of the mid-term elections next year. That $4 million in the first three months of 2017 came from 100,000 donors. 40% were contributing to End Citizens United for the first time. The average contribution is $12. That indicates the contributors are not wealthy donors. Therefore, they are tapping into the anger Democrats feel regarding President Trump.
End Citizens United says its goal is to elect legislators who champion campaign finance reform. The candidates must agree to support an amendment to the constitution to overturn Citizens United. They must also back and vote for campaign finance reform bills.
They also say they support only Democrats. They acknowledge some Republicans also oppose campaign finance corruption, but their leadership is blocking reform. They say the Citizens United ruling makes it impossible to pass and implement the Democratic Party’s agenda. The PAC also helped pass a 2015 ballot initiative in Maine that improved that state’s system of public financing for elections.