250 Years of Campaigns, Cash and Corruption

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This timeline first appeared at Mother Jones.*

The history of money in American politics is one of shady characters and a dramatic battle between the forces of reform and influence that goes back more than 250 years before the birth of the super PAC. Check out this timeline for its juiciest events and milestones. (It may take a few seconds to load.)

*Updated by BillMoyers.com in April and September 2014
Asawin Suebsaeng is a reporter at the Washington, DC, bureau of Mother Jones. He has also written for The American Prospect, the Bangkok Post, and Shoecomics.com.
Aaron Ross is a former editorial intern at Mother Jones currently living and working in Cairo, Egypt. Aaron’s writing focuses primarily on international politics and sport. He has been published in The Nation, Huffington Post and Philadelphia Weekly.
Andy Kroll is Mother Jones' dark money reporter. He is based in the DC bureau. His work has also appeared at The Wall Street Journal, The Detroit News, Salon and TomDispatch.com, where he's an associate editor. He tweets at @AndyKroll.
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  • Joan Harris

    History repeats itself…and SCOTUS does again in 1975 , declaring money is free speech. I am speechless!

  • David Ashcraft

    Americans have lied to themselves so often that they can’t distinguish reality when it hits them in the nose. Five Supreme Court judges turn off their neurons and call campaign corruption “free speech.”Is waterboarding torture? We watched many weeks of supposedly learned men and women acting as though they were debating the idea of waterboarding; despite the fact that it was used under President Theodore Roosevelt and called torture; despite the fact that police departments used it to extract confessions up until about the 1940s. Is their a rational person anywhere? Well, of course Bill Moyers and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

  • Anonymous

    Campaign finance reform might be a good thing, but we continue to allow politicians and those running for office to lie. So how can we expect the average person, who isn’t that well informed, to wade through the BS, discern truth from errors & egregious lies, and then make even a mediocre decision? Like shouting fire in a crowded theater, lies told to the public & press by political candidates and politicians need to be made illegal. Given the 1st amendment, the only law that would be legal would be a new amendment addressing this issue.

  • John Allen

    Free speech? Why should the rich be able to have more speech anyway? Utterly insane

  • http://keepkalm.com/ Kyle Alm

    Political Advertisements shouldn’t be protected speech. Anyone who has watched TV in October knows that they are a nuisance and should be defined as and treated as such.

  • ted

    They should put a “For Sale” sign in front of Congress along with a price list for its occupants so it could be recognized for what it is, the most expensive brothel on the planet

  • ted

    When they spend millions to buy votes, speech isn’t free and We the People don’t stand a chance in hell of being heard!

  • ted

    As are 99% of the rest of us

  • Anonymous

    Seventy years are disappeared on this timeline. The money issues we struggle with today were a centerpiece of the power struggle after the American Revolution. Guess who won? William Hogeland, “Founding Finance” is a good place to start for this corrective, but Charles Beard pointed it out over a hundred years ago.

  • Candice White

    The court is bought and paid for it lost it’s honesty along time ago.