America enters the election year 2014 with considerable uncertainty about two major constitutional issues: what will the rules be for financing the federal campaign, and what is the outlook for minority and poor voters at the ballot box? Two controversial Supreme Court decisions will have a continuing impact: the ruling four years ago in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and the decision last June in Shelby County v. Holder. It is not too much to say that the money side of national politics has been turned upside down by the Citizens United decision – a ruling that, after a century of restrictions on political financing by corporations and labor unions, turned them loose to spend as much as they liked as long as they did so independently from candidates running for Congress and the Presidency.
Interpreted by lower courts, that decision has gone well beyond the specifics of what the Supreme Court actually decided on spending freedom, and as a result contributions to election campaigns have now become almost as free as spending, leading to the rise of influence by secret “super PACS” and, in the process, to a weakening of the wall of separation between funding sources and candidates.
The changing world of campaign financing continues to prove the truth of a remark by two Supreme Court Justices a decade ago in a major funding case: “Money, like water, will always find an outlet.” No matter what restrictions Congress fashions from time to time to limit the influence of big donors, there are always new channels for the flow of money, and those are increasingly gaining approval in the federal courts.
Full Article: The Constitution in 2014: Election rules.