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Five Years Since Citizens United: An Indiana Update

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By Mary Kuhlman

It's been five years since the Supreme Court's decision in the "Citizens United" case paved the way for unlimited corporate spending in elections. The court ruled that restricting campaign spending by outside groups is unconstitutional because it hinders their freedom of speech.

Many states responded by reforming their own political spending and disclosure laws - but not Indiana. Craig Holman, government affairs director for the watchdog group Public Citizen, said the Hoosier State's campaign finance laws are among the weakest in the country.

"There have been 16 states that have passed resolutions asking for Congress to submit to the states a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United decision," he said, "so we're seeing a lot going on - but sadly in Indiana, we're not seeing much happen."

Holman said there are essentially no limits on outside spending and very little disclosure in Indiana. A recent report of spending on Senate races by the Brennan Center for Justice found that since Citizens United, campaign spending by outside groups has doubled.

With so much money flooding into elections, Holman said, only those with wealth or access to it can successfully run for office. Without adequate disclosure of donation information, he said, voters don't truly know who is funding a candidate.

On today's fifth anniversary of the decision, demonstrations and educational forums are being held in Indiana and around the nation. On Thursday, some congressional Democrats are expected to announce several new pieces of legislation attempting to limit campaign spending.

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