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Authored by Andrew Albright for California Common Cause.

Hope is not lost when it comes to regulating independent expenditures at the state level in the wake of Citizens United.

Despite the well-acknowledged dangers that independent expenditures can have in an election and on a democracy, the Supreme Court of the United States took all but the narrowest of policy solutions off the table in its landmark decision, Citizens United v. FEC.

Unlike campaign contributions, independent expenditures cannot be capped by state or federal regulation, creating an avenue for unlimited spending in our politics. This allows wealthy individuals, corporate interests, and unions to buy access to, and curry favor with, politicians to see their policy preferences enacted. 

Coordination laws govern the relationships between candidates and third-party committees, or campaign spenders, that make independent expenditures in support of those candidates. This report examines the legal doctrine and public policy around coordination laws, in California, other states, and federally. It identifies the best-in-field practices, where California falls short, and proposes how California can improve.

Findings illustrate that the best way California can fight back against the damaging effects of Citizens United is to tighten coordination laws to ensure that independent expenditures truly are independent.

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