Supreme Court's campaign finance ruling: just the facts
Questions and answers about the Supreme Court's ruling on campaign finance and how it will change America's elections.
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Other observers see less radical change ahead. Corporations have already effectively been influencing federal elections by funding issue ads, though in a more restricted manner. Now, restrictions governing timing and content are gone, although disclosure rules remain.Skip to next paragraph
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The Supreme Court "took what had been a revolving door and took the door away altogether," says Evan Tracey, who tracks political advertising at the Campaign Media Analysis Group in Arlington, Va. "There was something there that slowed the money down. Now it's gone."
Who benefits, and who loses?
Republicans, who tend to be friendlier to the interests of corporations, are the likely beneficiaries of this extra campaign spending. Democrats would benefit more than Republicans from greater union spending, although unions are not nearly as wealthy as major corporations.
Underfunded candidates who prove viable toward the end of a campaign may be helped with supportive advertising from outside groups, since the rule banning such ads less than 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election was struck down. This means there will probably be more competitive races.
Another big winner is the TV and radio industry. Mr. Tracey predicts as much as 20 percent more campaign ad spending in 2010 because of the ruling, or about $500 million – more than half of it to local outlets.
Can the decision be overturned?
The current Supreme Court has spoken. But if one of the five justices in the majority on the decision were to leave and be replaced by a more liberal justice, the court could take a new campaign finance case and decide that corporations do not enjoy the free-speech rights of individuals.
Can Congress affect the impact of the ruling?
Efforts are already under way to boost the power of small donors to counter the anticipated rise of corporate influence in elections. One bill, the Fair Elections Now Act, would create a voluntary public financing system for congressional elections. Candidates would qualify for federal matching funds by raising a large number of small donations in their communities.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D) of New York and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) of Maryland are planning to introduce legislation soon that would limit spending by contractors and corporations that received federal bailouts.
Other ideas include mandating shareholder approval for political spending and requiring CEOs and union leaders to appear in ads that they helped fund.
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