A powerhouse legal team representing a bipartisan group of congressional members and candidates is unleashing a new effort to overturn the case that birthed super PACs, part of a novel strategy to rein in the big money that has poured into campaigns since 2010.
Their immediate target is not Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the polarizing decision handed down by the Supreme Court that year. Instead, they are going after a lesser-known case decided by U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit just two months later: SpeechNow.org v. FEC .
That decision, citing Citizens United, permitted a conservative group to raise money beyond the contribution limits placed on traditional PACs because it planned to spend its funds independently of a candidate or party. In doing so, the appellate court paved the way for new political vehicles — later dubbed super PACs for their ability to accept unlimited amounts from individuals and corporations.
The other complainants are Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.); Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.); John Howe, a GOP candidate in Minnesota; Zephyr Teachout, a Democrat running in New York; Michael Wager, a Democratic candidate in Ohio; Free Speech for People, a nonprofit legal advocacy group; and the nonpartisan Campaign for Accountability.