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Deirdre Fulton – To Reclaim Democracy, New Lawsuit Aims to Be ‘Death of the Super PAC’

While most people point to Citizens United as the case that opened the door to big money in U.S. elections, the lesser-known 2010 appeals court ruling in SpeechNow.org v. FEC is perhaps just as blameworthy—one legal scholar says the decision “gave birth to the super PAC takeover of American politics.”

Now, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, congressional candidates, and campaign reform advocates is taking aim at that ruling, filing a lawsuit on Friday that they say “will provide the U.S. Supreme Court the opportunity to end the super PAC threat facing our democracy today.”

The suit (pdf) names as defendant the Federal Election Commission (FEC), charging that the agency has failed to enforce $5,000-per-contributor limits that plaintiffs say are still in place—despite the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s 2010 decision that federal law limiting such contributions did not apply to a political committee that promised to make only “independent expenditures.”

“That decision—which birthed the so-called ‘super PAC’ and radically transformed American politics as a result—rested entirely on the misapprehension of a single sentence in Citizens United to the effect that ‘independent’ expenditures, by definition, cannot corrupt,” the lawsuit reads.

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