The second anniversary of the landmark Citizens United vs. the F.E.C. is this Saturday. This decision prohibits government from limiting the independent spending for political purposes by corporations and unions. The resulting undue influence of money in American elections has systematically dismantled our representative democracy, amplifying the political speech of those willing to spend more on candidates.
The effect of the Citizens United vs. FEC decision was essentially this: Money equals speech. It follows that, via the First Amendment, any person should be allowed to spend unlimited money to promote a candidate or issue in an election season.
A previous SCOTUS decision granted corporate personhood under the Fourteenth Amendment, which originally granted freed slaves equal protection as citizens under the law. How convoluted and disgusting is this?
These are false premises. Money is definitely, categorically not speech. If it is, then the 400 richest Americans should legally be able to have the same amount of political speech as the poorest 50% of us (that's over 100 million households).
While this may have been a political reality before 2010, the Justice Roberts Supreme Court has judged that it should now be law. Again, right-wing SCOTUS appointees are giving power to the few and weakening our freedoms.
As if money in politics was not already the primary corruptor of American government, the zealots on the Roberts Court dealt a devastating blow to the nation two years ago. Since then we've elected an obstructionist House of Representatives in 2010, and this year is shaping up to be the year of a strange new entity in the political lexicon, the Super PAC (Political Action Committee).
Thanks to this horrible decision, in a non-presidential election year, 2010 saw the most expensive election in history, beating 2008 by a whopping 40%. Republican backers spent nearly 50% more than pro-Democrat groups.
Thanks to non-disclosure laws, huge sums of money have been laundered through the Chamber of Commerce, Crossroads GPS (Karl Rove’s Super PAC), and over 200,000 similar 501(C)(6) and 501(C)(4) groups to covertly back candidates. SCOTUS just last week made it illegal for these secret donations to come from foreign sources, shooting down such an extension of Citizens United. The law was unclear on this front in 2010.
Super PAC money is already making an impact in 2012. The most vocal critic recently has been GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who has been tirelessly criticizing Mitt Romney for his Super PAC’s attack ads on the former speaker. Gingrich is being characteristically disingenuous, as he was a supporter of Citizens United.
Like Gingrich, other Republicans may be changing their tune and turning on Super PACs as the shoe is placed on the other foot in 2012. President Obama is expected to raise $1 billion with the help of Citizens United.
Republicans picked up a stunning 63 House seats in 2010 thanks to Citizens United. The Koch Brothers’ Tea Party Express, Tea Party Patriots, and Dick Armey’s Freedom Works helped see to it that many of the new members were fringe extremists who were elected using fear and smear tactics.
This new stripe of congressmen led to the inexcusable fiasco that we saw last summer in the debt ceiling crisis. The U.S. lost its S&P’s AAA credit rating as a result, and there is an ever-present threat of government shutdown on the horizon in 2012.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United by redefining "corporate personhood." Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) has already introduced the same amendment to the House. Over 60 organizations are organizing protests this Friday in support of this amendment.
The snowballing effects of Citizens United have given us even more electoral disillusionment and political disenfranchisement to go along with a government constantly teetering on the edge of disaster.
What’s more, thanks to stare decisis, the burden of proof is now on the decision’s opponents to have it overturned.
Do you support Citizens United?
Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey