Prior to 2002, when Congress passed campaign finance reforms intended to block corporate money from influencing elections, corporate and individual donors often pooled their resources by making unlimited soft money contributions to national political parties that generally helped their favored candidates. Now, super PACs offer donors a decentralized approach to more efficiently support those candidates with whom they agree, or oppose those with whom they disagree.
Unlike some other types of fundraising methods, virtually every donor to a super PAC is disclosed. And because of these strict disclosure requirements, we know that individuals are the ones making the vast majority of direct contributions to super PACs and that public companies are barely participating.
Even though unlikely, the Supreme Court could soon take up the Montana case and might even overturn Citizens United and the limited rights for corporations narrowly outlined in that case. But individuals, who have provided the lionís share of funds to super PACs, will still be free to make all the political speech they want through independent expenditures.
So, while itís tempting to blame Citizens United for all that ails political campaigns, the reality is that this Supreme Court decision has little bearing on individuals, who can continue to exercise their constitutionally protected rights to express political speech.
Tim Peckinpaugh and Steve Roberts are attorneys in the Washington office of the K&L Gates LLP law firm.
On January 3, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., raises her right hand as her son Henry messes up her hair while Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., delivers the ceremonial swearing-in in the Old Senate Chamber. Gillibrand's other son Theodore, lower right, looks on.
Each year since 1990, CQ Roll Call has reviewed the financial disclosures of all 541 senators, representatives and delegates to determine the 50 richest members of Congress. This year's report, derived from forms covering the calendar year 2012, shows it took a net worth of $6.67 million to crack the exclusive club.