In 2010 the United States Supreme Court delivered an opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission which reversed decades of federal campaign finance law. The Court held that corporations, unions, and other entities could not be subject to federal campaign finance laws that restricted these organizations from engaging in independent expenditures using general treasury funds – i.e., advocating for the election or defeat of a specific candidate for federal office. Two months later, in SpeechNow v. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia extended the ruling to apply to non-profit organizations. The result of this pair of rulings was the creation of the “Super PAC” – a type of political action committee than can spend unlimitedly on expressly advocating for the election or defeat of a candidate for federal office. A wealth of scholarship emerged in the aftermath of Citizens United. One of these bodies of literature contended over whether Super PACs were de facto extensions of the parties, or whether the Super PAC represented a novel entity that could be used by party outsiders to challenge the party insiders. I investigated the ability of party outsiders and factions to fundraise before and after the 2010 ruling to determine whether Citizens United created an opening for party outsiders. I used a database consisting of over 100 million contribution records from the Federal Election Commission to review a list of candidates for federal office and their numerical ideology scores. I used a modified z-score to standardize the ideology of candidates, and then conducted a comparative analysis of the percentage of total contributions that went to extreme candidates in Republican Presidential primaries both before and after 2010. I found that extreme candidates were indeed better off after Citizens United.


Citizens United vs FEC; Campaigne Finance, 2016 election, fractions, Presidential Primaries

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Dr. Anke Grosskopf

Academic Department

Political Science