Special Interests after Citizens United: Access, Replacement, and Interest Group Response to Legal Change
Posted: 6 Nov 2013
Date Written: November 2013
The legal literature on campaign finance law and the political science literature on how and why interest groups mobilize use different methodologies to get at overlapping issues. This review integrates some of these insights to better understand the relationship between interest group participation in elections and changes in campaign finance law. The post–Citizens United world of law created regulatory vacuums that only certain groups tried to take advantage of. For example, little corporate money found its way into Super PACs or groups engaging in independent electoral advocacy. We argue that ascertaining interest groups' objectives of either using contributions to candidates to obtain access, on one hand, or using independent expenditures to install friendly candidates in office, on the other, is key to understanding how interest groups respond to legal developments. We also argue that although interest group participation in elections increased in 2012, the party-centric federal election system was largely resilient to increased interest group mobilizations, highlighting the difficulties with the replacement strategy.
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