WhichWayNC was curious about the different ways politicians receive and spend campaign funds, so we created an easy-to-follow guide to the movement of money in political campaigns.
For those North Carolinians who are not super savvy with political terminology, WhichWayNC has compiled a glossary with words you might need to know:
- Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (2010): The US Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that corporations and unions had the same political speech rights as individuals under the First Amendment. Therefore, states could not prohibit corporations and unions from using their money for election-related independent expenditures, like political attack ads.
- Electioneering communications: The McCain-Feingold Act placed restrictions on who can run TV and radio ads in the days immediately before the elections. Corporations and unions are prohibited from running ads, but individuals and PACs are still allowed.
- Federal Elections Commission (FEC): The FEC is an independent agency created by Congress to regulate, enforce and administer campaign finance law. Six commissioners oversee the FEC, all appointed by the president. There must be three Democratic and three Republican commissioners at all times.
- Leadership PAC: Political Action Committees created by political party leaders. Donations collected by these PACs go toward other candidates in the party or to independent expenditure organizations, like super PACs.
- McCain-Feingold Act of 2002: Also known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, this act outlawed political soft money as well as political advertisements paid for by corporations and nonprofits. The Citizens United decision overturned the second part of the act.
- NC State Board of Elections (SBE): The North Carolina State Board of Elections regulates campaign finance laws within North Carolina. The state agency that oversees the administration of the election process and is responsible for collecting campaign finance disclosure in NC. Five governor-appointed members form the board.
- outside advocacy groups: Term that describes organizations not a branch of a political party or candidate. Outside political groups include 527s, social welfare groups, PACs and Super PACs
- SpeechNow.org v. Federal Elections Commission (2010): In a decision based heavily on Citizens United, a US appeals court ruled that the government cannot impose limits on independent spending on elections. The creation of the Super PAC was a direct result of this decision.
- soft money: Contributions given to a political party under no government-issued limitations that were supposed to be used for general party-related activities rather than advocating for or against a candidate. Parties used soft-money to amass hundreds of millions of dollars to support that party’s interest, including candidates. In 2002, national political parties were banned from raising soft money by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.
- tax exempt organizations (527s): Tax exempt organizations are organized under the Internal Revenue Code section 527 (hence the nickname “527s”). 527s must only file regular donor-disclosure reports to the FEC if it is a PAC or political party that specifically advocates for the election or defeat of a candidate. They can raise unlimited funds from individuals, corporations and unions as a result of the Citizens United court ruling.