Campaign Finance: 'Watergate II' Scandal Ahead?

Campaign finance has exploded into one of the biggest news stories of the year, especially on the heels of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Now some are predicting that with the flood of political cash, a Watergate-style scandal could erupt.

“The U.S. is due for a huge scandal involving big money, bribery and politicians. Not the small fry that dominates the ethics fights in Washington; really big stuff; think Watergate,” wrote Al Hunt in a Bloomberg column.

Saying “one of the villains is Citizens United,” Hunt reported, “There is a massive infusion of special-interest money into U.S. politics that is secret, not reported. Corporations and other interests will spend more than $250 million of undisclosed funds to affect the outcome of the Nov. 2 national elections.” When accountability is lacking, he added, there is abuse.

A New York Times article, headlined “Return of the Secret Donors,” recalled the history of secret and illegal corporate donations in the Watergate era as it examined secret and legal corporate spending today. The high undisclosed sums spent by outside groups in the current elections may be dwarfed in the 2012 presidential cycle, the article added.

Another New York Times article, entitled “Long Battle by Foes of Campaign Finance Rules Shifts Landscape,” explored how we got to where we are in October 2010.

The records keep falling. “Never in modern political history has there been so much secret money gushing into an American election,” a Politico article reported. “Election Spending Skyrockets after ‘Citizens United,'” was the headline for a NPR report.

Election law scholar Richard Hasen dug past the latest trends in a Slate analysis that was headlined, “Show Me the Donors: What’s the point of disclosing campaign donations? Let’s review.”

To learn more about Citizens United, click here to see Justice at Stake’s news release about the decision; or click here to read the Justice at Stake Campaign amicus brief in the case.

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