To properly analyze this question, we first need to take a look at the most recent reforms and court decisions regarding campaign finance. There have been numerous laws and court decision passed or handed down in regards to campaign finance. The most recent one prior to the 2008 election was the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) popularly known as the McCain-Feingold Act (after the two senators who co-sponsored the law). This law was further clarified by the Supreme Court in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission. The law and the subsequent Supreme Court decision had the following effects on the 2008 election:
- It required that candidates appear in claim responsibility for campaign advertisements.
- It allowed 527 non profit organizations to act as unofficial surrogates for political candidates. This meant that various advocacy groups were able to take political positions supporting or attacking a candidate without being directly tied too or coordinating with a candidate’s official campaign.
For the 2012 presidential election, campaign finance law was drastically changed as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC and the SpeecNow.org v. FEC decision handed down by the D.C Circuit Court of Appeals. As a result of those decisions, in the 2012 presidential elections:
- There were no restrictions placed on the ability of corporations or unions to donate to organizations or groups running electioneering communication.
- Allowed independent political organizations to raise unlimited funds from individual and corporate donors for the purpose of electioneering and campaigning.
Most analysts agree that further reforms of campaign finance laws need to be made in order to strengthen it. Recent Supreme Court decisions have severely gutted critical provisions in the campaign finance provisions and have opened up national campaigns to unlimited monetary influence.