Five years ago today, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled corporations and unions could spend unlimited amounts of money to advocate for or against political candidates.
The court declared that spending by labor unions and companies — including certain types of nonprofit corporations — did “not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption” so long as it was not done in concert or coordination with a political candidate’s own campaign.
While it is still illegal for corporations and labor unions to give money directly to candidates for federal office, that ruling, known as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, has dramatically reshaped the political landscape for federal and state elections.
Among the most significant developments: a surge of political “dark money” — secret cash that opaque nonprofit organizations funnel into U.S. elections. Such groups do not publicly disclose their donors.
Here are a dozen stories from the Center for Public Integrity that illuminate how Citizens United has changed politics.