HuffPost: How court cases influenced campaign finance


Money and politics in the United States have become increasingly intertwined, a relationship which reached new heights when the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) to allow corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money independently in support of or in opposition to a candidate. The effects of Citizens United have been pivotal, and calls to overturn the ruling continue to this day.

However, Citizens United didn’t appear out of nowhere. The ruling was only the latest in a series of important court cases that have loosened campaign finance restrictions.


The Wisconsin Right to Life case is noteworthy not only for helping enable dark money spending but for demonstrating how much the composition of the Supreme Court matters, Brendan Fischer, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center, said.

In 2006, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired and was replaced by Samuel Alito, a conservative-leaning justice, which shifted the dynamic on the court.

“Between the McConnell case and the Wisconsin Right to Life ruling, really nothing changed in terms of the statistics or practices of campaign finance,” Fischer said. “All that changed was the makeup of the court.

“[This case] is a reminder that the ideology of the court makes a significant impact.”

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