In 2010, the Supreme Court made a ruling in the case of Citizens United v. F.E.C that has had negative impacts on the American election system. Essentially, the ruling – popularly referred to as Citizens United – has allowed corporations, generous individuals, and special interest groups to spend an unlimited and untraceable amount of money funding U.S elections. This has effectively killed transparency in campaign financing and gives these donors an opportunity to shift political power in their favor.
However, skeptics question whether Citizens United has had any demonstrable effects on campaigns in America. A recently released study from the Brennan Center for Justice showed that this is indeed the case. In 2014Senate elections, spending by outside donors rose up to 486 million dollars, more than double what was spent in 2010.
End Citizens United is a political action group formed in 2015 to reform campaign finance. They hope to do this in two ways: by pushing for a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United, and by getting like-minded Democratic politicians elected. End Citizens United is funded mainly by grassroots individual donors. Because of its commitment to making political spending more transparent, the group’s annual Federal Elections Commission filings are available to the public on their website.
From its inception, End Citizens United has been raising huge amounts of money to pour into achieving their objectives. In its first year of operation, the group managed to raise 11 million dollars. Now they have raised 4 million dollars in the first three months of 2017, and expect to hit the 35 million dollar mark in time for the Congressional midterms that will be held in 2018.
Of the 100,000 people who contributed to End Citizens United in this first quarter, around 40,000 were first-time donors. The average donation received by the group this year was 12 dollars. As a traditional political action committee, End Citizens United cannot receive more than 5,000 dollars in donations from an individual. In spite of this limit, the group has become one of the top-spending groups aligned to the Democratic party.
While reporting this achievement, the PAC’s Executive Director Tiffany Muller said the goal for the midterms is to ensure pro-election finance reform politicians were elected to Congress. The first such candidate the PAC is urging its supporters to elect Jon Ossoff, a first-time Congressional candidate from Georgia. Ossoff surprised established politicians by raising about 4 million dollars for the special election to be held on April 18. This election will be to fill a seat in the house left vacant after Republican Tom Price was appointed to a position within the Trump administration.
End Citizens United was at the forefront of this effort, encouraging their supporters to contribute 500,000 dollars to Ossoff’s campaign. Muller says that the PAC is still analyzing the races that will be active in the 2018 elections. However, they will likely defend Democratic Senators Jon Tester from Montana, and Sherrod Brown from Ohio.