The recent growth in campaign spending has been accompanied by rapid growth in the number and size of independent-expenditure organizations, especially in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC. Whereas political committees coordinate their actions with candidates, independent-expenditure organizations, by definition, must carry on their activities without such coordination. With its ruling that independent expenditures do not give rise to concerns of quid pro quo corruption, the Court has placed these expenditures almost entirely outside the realm of campaign finance regulation that applies to political committees. Following Citizens United, federal courts have made various attempts at applying this principle to the organizations that make independent expenditures, with inconsistent results.
This Comment reviews the modem history of campaign finance jurisprudence to discern the rationale behind the Citizens United decision. Recent Courts of Appeals' decisions are also examined to determine how this rationale is and should be applied to independent expenditure organizations. Next, this Comment considers which standard the courts should apply to determine whether independent expenditure organizations that are closely tied to political committees should be outside the application of campaign finance laws, despite the possibility of coordination with political candidates. To resolve this question, this Comment proposes that the courts make use of a modified application of the alter ego doctrine to decide such questions, as federal courts already use this doctrine to determine when to treat two purportedly separate organizations as a single entity when applying federal law.
Francis Straub IV,
When Are Independent Expenditures Not Independent? Regulation of Campaign Finance Entities After Citizens United,
Dick. L. Rev.
Available at: https://ideas.dickinsonlaw.psu.edu/dlra/vol120/iss1/8