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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Campaign Finance Policy After Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission: Issues and Options for Congress

R. Sam Garrett
Analyst in American National Government

Following the Supreme Court’s January 21, 2010, ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, questions have emerged about which policy options could be available to Congress. This report provides an overview of selected campaign finance policy options that may be relevant. It also briefly comments on how Citizens United might affect political advertising. A complete understanding of how Citizens United will affect the campaign and policy environments is likely to be unavailable until at least the conclusion of the 2010 election cycle.

As Congress considers legislative responses, at least two broad choices could be relevant. First, Congress could provide candidates or parties with additional access to funds to combat corporate influence in elections. Second, Congress could restrict spending under certain conditions or require those making expenditures post-Citizens United to provide additional information to voters or regulators. Options within both approaches could generate substantial debate. Some may contend that the only way to provide Congress with the power to directly affect the content of the ruling would be to amend the Constitution.

More than 40 bills introduced during the 111
th Congress may be relevant for legislative responses to Citizens United. These include H.Con.Res. 13, H.J.Res. 13, H.J.Res. 68, H.J.Res. 74 ,H.J.Res. 82, H.J.Res. 84, H.Res. 1275, H.R. 158, H.R. 1095, H.R. 1826, H.R. 2038, H.R. 2056, H.R. 3574, H.R. 3859, H.R. 4431, H.R. 4432, H.R. 4433, H.R. 4434, H.R. 4435, H.R. 4487, H.R. 4510, H.R. 4511, H.R. 4517, H.R. 4522, H.R. 4523, H.R. 4527, H.R. 4537, H.R. 4540, H.R. 4550, H.R. 4583, H.R. 4617, H.R. 4630, H.R. 4644, H.R. 4749, H.R. 4768, H.R. 4790, H.R. 5175, S.J.Res. 28 ,S.J.Res. 36, S. 133, S. 752, S. 2954, S. 2959, S. 3004, S. 3295, and S. 3628. The House passed H.R. 5175, a version of the DISCLOSE Act (an acronym for “Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections”), on June 24, 2010. (For additional discussion, see CRS Report R41264, The DISCLOSE Act: Overview and Analysis, by R. Sam Garrett, L. Paige Whitaker, and Erika K. Lunder). Given the pace of developments since the ruling, this report is not intended to be exhaustive. Relevant legislation that has been introduced thus far is reflected through selected examples and in Table 1 at the end of this report. Additional legislation will be included in future updates.

This report is not intended to provide a legal analysis of Citizens United or of constitutional issues that might affect the policy options discussed here. CRS Report R41045, The Constitutionality of Regulating Corporate Expenditures: A Brief Analysis of the Supreme Court Ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, by L. Paige Whitaker, and CRS Report R41096, Legislative Options After Citizens United v. FEC: Constitutional and Legal Issues, by L. Paige Whitaker et al., discuss legal and constitutional issues. 

Date of Report: September 17, 2010
Number of Pages: 26
Order Number: R41054
Price: $29.95

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