As Yogi Berra once said, “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.” Nothing could be truer when it comes to money in American politics. In the 2000 election, candidates and outside groups spent a combined $3 billion on the presidential and congressional races. Not two decades later, in 2016, the amount spent more than doubled to a combined $6.5 billion. For 2020, forecasters project that the total amount spent on political advertising alone will reach $10 billion.
There’s a simple reason for this exponential rise in political expenditures: the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment to preclude the regulation of many aspects of campaign finance. That decision in 1976 first opened the floodgates of contributions to political campaigns.
"Nowhere is money felt more than in the explosion of spending by outside groups to elect and influence candidates in the past decade, which have simultaneously increased amounts while decreasing accountability."
In this issue of the Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the U.S. paper series, the authors outline how the bipartisan use of money in politics undermines the democratic process.