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New First Amendment Library feature: Campaign finance timeline

By March 8, 2017

In an effort to explain the history of First Amendment law, FIRE’s First Amendment Library now contains a timeline documenting the history of campaign finance.

Beginning with George Washington’s purchase of alcohol for voters, this timeline gives a detailed account of how historical events, law, and court decisions have shaped the use of money in politics. The timeline is adapted from the one featured in Ronald K.L. Collins and David Skover’s book “When Money Speaks,” on the same subject.

Other interesting stops on the timeline include lesser-known events such as Abraham Lincoln’s 1859 purchase of a German-language newspaper company in order to persuade German voters; the formation of the first political action committee in 1943; and the 2011 failure of the so-called OCCUPIED constitutional amendment, which stood for “Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy” and was inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement.

We hope this timeline, and the library as a whole, can help those interested in the relationship between money, speech, and campaigning develop a better understanding of these issues through a historical lens.