Citizens United Is Number One -- What Are the Other 9 Top Money-in-Politics Stories of 2010?

12/23/2010 08:00 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Citizens United. “I apologize.” Hammer to the slammer?

In a year filled with Tea and slurpies, the story of corporate and special interest money often played second fiddle. But it played second fiddle so often and so consistently, my colleagues at Public Campaign and I have compiled the top ten money in politics stories of the year.

  1. In Citizens United, the Roberts Court gives special interests free rein, while Senate Republicans block disclosure. Perhaps no other event changed the landscape when it came to political money more than the Roberts Court’s long-awaited January decision in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission that gave corporations the same ability as individuals to spend money to directly influence elections. Maybe the only rival was the Senate Republicans blocking a modest disclosure bill to respond to the court’s decision.
  2. Fair Elections advanced. In 2010, the Fair Elections Now Act, legislation that would allow candidates to run for office by relying on small donations from people back home, passed out of a House Committee and, according to supporters, had the votes to win a vote on the floor.
  3. Tom DeLay. It took five years, but disgraced former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) was finally convicted by a jury of his peers, for conspiracy and money laundering connected to the funneling of corporate money into state elections in Texas.
  4. Super PACs, the Chamber of Commerce, and secret money. Whatever biblical or meteorological metaphor you use -- Armageddon, tsunami, avalanche -- the outside money spent on the 2010 elections shaped who got elected and, quite possibly, what they’ll do as members of Congress.
  5. Feingold’s loss. Departing Sen. Russ Feingold is a shining example of a long-serving, principled politician whose service was guided by doing what he believed was right for his constituents and the nation. That he lost his re-election to a self-funded candidate who benefited from special interest-funded attack ads is a bitter reminder that we need more Feingolds in public office to stand up for everyday Americans.
  6. Quotes that warmed the hearts of special interests everywhere. Perhaps one of the most striking examples of money in politics this year was the extent to which some lawmakers blatantly stated their fealty to big corporate interests, from apologizing to BP to offering to “serve the banks.”
  7. House spending and fundraising reaches $1 billion. Public Campaign Action Fund’s Campaign Money Watch predicted that the battle for the U.S. House would easily reach $1 billion for the first time in history -- and we were right.
  8. Self-funders spend big to lose (mostly). The 2010 election cycle saw a big new wave of ultra-rich self-funders willing to spend their significant fortunes for elected office -- and many of them went down in flames, none so spectacularly as Meg Whitman’s $160 million spending spree to try to buy the governor’s mansion in California.
  9. Two “Clean Elections” governors elected. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) and Connecticut Governor-elect Dan Malloy (D) became the second and third governors elected under Clean Elections-style public financing systems. 
  10. Advocates beat back repeal of Arizona Clean Elections With the Courts throwing the stability of the state system into question last year, repeal looked imminent. But state advocates like the Arizona Advocacy Network and national partners like Public Campaign led an all out assault on Clean Elections foes and staved off repeal.

We also have some honorable mentions up on our blog post, make sure to check it out. What did we miss? What was your favorite (or worst) money in politics story of 2010?

For the full list click through here to our newly-designed website.