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PBS Need To Know: As election season begins, spending on campaigns breaks records


September 3, 2010- Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer and the unofficial beginning of the high political campaign season. And while we’re all bound to spend a fair amount of time talking about the issues and candidates this election cycle, we want to begin with what is often called the mother’s milk of politics: money.

According to a report from the Associated Press, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is planning to spend $75 million on this year’s campaigns, mainly on Republican candidates. The AFL-CIO, for its part, will spend more than $50 million supporting candidates who share labor’s agenda — mostly democrats. But the Chamber of Commerce has also spent close to $190 million lobbying Congress since the Obama administration began, according to that AP report, which calls the chamber “a virtual third party.”

There are new rules on campaign spending as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case earlier this year. It held that some restrictions on campaign spending by corporations and labor unions violated their First Amendment rights to free speech. Jon Meacham spoke with Monica Youn of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law about how the new rules are already affecting campaigns. She has litigated campaign finance and election law issues in state and federal courts across the country.

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