Political Parties are Evolving

What would have happened to the Occupy Wall Street movement if they had a charismatic leader? How has the Tea Party changed national politics? These are the birthing pains of the next evolution in political parties. Part of this can be explained by dissatisfaction with the current parties. Another explanation is how political funding has changed.

In 2002, the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform stamped out the use of “soft” money contributions to political parties (large contributions by wealthy donors). A side effect of this was funneling the contributions into independent advocacy groups which operate outside of the traditional party channels. These “shadow parties” have their own turnout and advertising campaigns and are not accountable to any candidate or political party boss.

The Citizens United v. SEC ruling operated as a further catalyst for this decentralization of political funding through Political Action Committees (PACs). The ruling determined that corporations have the same rights to political speech as citizens (and money is speech). So now the bulk of funding is being directed to third party organizations. These organizations act on the behalf of candidates and parties, but are also often issue based and not beholden to the traditional political party structure.

In 2012, there were 1,319 super PACs, which spent $838,116,275. Social Welfare 501 (c)(4), advocacy groups such as republican oriented Crossroads GPS, spent $258,325,229. Political parties, on the other hand, spent a total of $227,623,727. This decentralization of funding has given varying interests more pull in how a particular party frames its message.

Additional Resources

Open Secrets, 2012 Outside Spending by Super PAC: http://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/summ.php?cycle=2012&chrt=V&type=S

Libertarian Party: http://www.lp.org/platform

Fox News, Can the GOP Learn to Live With Libertarianism? http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/03/08/can-gop-learn-to-live-with-libertarianism/

Cornell University Law School, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/08-205.ZS.html

The New York Times, How Much Has Citizens United Changed the Political Game: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/22/magazine/how-much-has-citizens-united-changed-the-political-game.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Have Political Parties Lost Their Purpose? http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/have-political-parties-lost-their-purpose/2013/03/18/2486608e-8d9f-11e2-9838-d62f083ba93f_story.html?wpisrc=nl_politics


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