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Candidates & Super PACs: The New Model in 2016

  • Brent Ferguson
Published: June 12, 2015

As voters begin to assess pres­id­en­tial candid­ates ahead of the 2016 elec­tion, they’ll face a new world in which ostens­ibly outside groups — which often have extremely close ties to the candid­ates, but are theor­et­ic­ally separ­ate from them because they aren’t “controlled” by the candid­ate and don’t give their money directly to her campaign — could domin­ate polit­ical spend­ing. That’s because super PACs and other groups conceived after the 2010 Citizens United decision may raise money without limits, while candid­ates cannot. While many have under­stood that super PACs would make a signi­fic­ant impact on Amer­ican elec­tions, few could have predicted the speed with which they have evolved and moved to the center of our polit­ical system.

The skyrock­et­ing spend­ing from these groups has left many concerned that elec­ted offi­cials work mainly for the big spend­ers that helped get them into office. In cases like Citizens United, the U.S. Supreme Court has told us not to worry: outside spend­ing cannot corrupt a candid­ate, the argu­ment goes, because the candid­ate cannot control that spend­ing — it’s not in his control, he may not want it, or may not approve of the way it is spent. That argu­ment is look­ing increas­ingly divorced from real­ity. This analysis will discuss several ways in which pres­id­en­tial candid­ates in the 2016 cycle are enga­ging in even greater collab­or­a­tion with super PACs and other outside groups, oblit­er­at­ing the distinc­tion between candid­ates and “inde­pend­ent” organ­iz­a­tions, which the Court has claimed is so import­ant.

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Candid­ates & Super PACS: The New Model in 2016