Operating with few rules and limited oversight, outside groups spent a record $1 billion to influence last year’s election. Politicians of all persuasions griped about the meddling. But few are working to change laws that ushered in an unprecedented flood of money made possible by a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that erased years of campaign finance law. Instead, political leaders and donors from both parties are preparing for the flow of outside money to intensify. New groups have formed and others are shaping plans to come back bigger and smarter ahead of the 2014 congressional elections and the 2016 presidential race. What laws do remain could become even looser as the Supreme Court considers another high-profile decision.
“The unregulated system that we seem to be headed in will make Watergate look like a bad soap opera,” said Robert Zimmerman, a member of the Democratic National Committee’s national finance team who helped raise as much as $500,000 for President Barack Obama’s re-election effort.
“Everybody is focusing on raising more,” Zimmerman said.
Even as some fundraisers report fatigue following a vicious and expensive presidential campaign last year, both sides are aggressively courting donors to help further transform the political landscape.
Campaigns and political parties bound by traditional fundraising limits are moving to outsource research, advertising, data collection and issue advocacy to groups that can accept unlimited donations while often offering donors anonymity.