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A legal war has been waged since the campaign finance reforms that followed the Watergate scandals, when Congress passed the bedrock for our modern money-in-politics regulatory regime. And while reformers have notched significant victories, deep-pocketed deregulators have slowly chipped away at major provisions by challenging them all the way to the Supreme Court. Here’s a look at how we got here, to a system where unlimited and often undisclosed cash is used to directly influence modern elections.

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John Dunbar worked for 15 years at the Center for Public Integrity, serving as its CEO from 2016 to 2018.