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Through litigation, policy analysis and public education, CLC works as a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization to protect and strengthen the U.S. democratic process across all levels of government.

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Protestors gathered outside the Supreme Court on the day, 10 years ago, the Citizens United case was decided.

Five major reflections 10 years after Citizens United

Ten years ago exactly — on Jan. 21, 2010 — the Supreme Court gave the green light to unlimited political expenditures by corporations, labor unions and nonprofit groups. The decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which said curbs on such spending violated the First Amendment, fundamentally changed the way elections are financed today.

A decade later the majority opinion in Citizens United is labeled, more often than any other single thing, as the ultimate antagonist of the democracy reform movement. The ruling has become so infamous it's used as shorthand for a campaign financing system that gives lopsided political advantage to the wealthiest over everyday citizens, including for reasons that have nothing to do with that case. That said, however, the decision has permitted groups that are not affiliated with any candidate or political party to pour almost $4.5 billion into the subsequent campaigns for president and Congress — an astonishing six times the total for all such independent expenditures in the two previous decades.

The 10-year anniversary has campaign finance experts all along the ideological spectrum reflecting on what the decision has meant for American politics, and what changes to laws and regulations might withstand court challenges and limit the impact of Citizens United in the decade ahead — on the assumption the ruling is on the books for at least that much longer.

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The state Supreme Court said it was fair to make ex-felons like Erica Racz (seen registering to vote in January 2019) pay all monetary penalties before regaining the franchise. But it was only an advisory opinion.

Florida top court ruling on felon voting is hardly the final word

Republicans hoping to limit the newly restored voting rights of convicted felons in Florida have won the backing of the state Supreme Court. But it's really just a victory in the court of public opinion, because the justices issued only an advisory opinion Thursday while the real decision is up to the federal courts.

At issue is a law passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature last year to implement a state constitutional amendment approved in 2018 with the support of almost two-thirds of the electorate, restoring voting rights to about 1.4 million Floridians with criminal records.

It is the largest single expansion of voting rights in the country since 18-year-olds got the constitutional right to cast ballots half a century ago. But its reach could be sharply limited if Republicans successfully defend the financial curbs they want to impose.

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The agency has lacked a quorum for 19 weeks, meaning it can't regulate money in the 2020 campaign.

Good-government coalition opposes restocking the FEC in an election year

Hitting the restart button on the Federal Election Commission during this campaign season is not the answer to better enforcement of the rules regulating money in politics, a coalition of good-government groups says.

Twenty-one such organizations declared their disagreement Monday with a proposal from a bipartisan collection of 31 prominent campaign finance lawyers. Last week the lawyers asked President Trump and the leaders of Congress to come up with an entirely new slate at the FEC to oversee campaign donations and spending in this year's presidential and congressional races.

Since the law allows half the commissioners to favor broad deregulation, because they're Republicans, lax enforcement and gridlock would be the end result of such an overhaul, the reform groups argued. Instead, they called for the confirmation of one or two new commissioners to create a quorum permitting at least minimal oversight through November.

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