In 2002, Congress itself tried to lessen the influence of money on elections with campaign finance reform. But eight years later, those efforts were largely negated by two separate court rulings.
In the Citizens United case, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down limits on spending by political action committees. A few months later, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals struck down restrictions on money contributed to such organizations.
While the government had argued these limits were necessary to prevent the corruption of the electoral process, the two courts reasoned that because PACs operate independently of individual candidates’ campaigns, corruption wasn’t an issue.