Two Years On, Citizens United Has Destroyed America With the Rise of Super PACs

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

 

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Joseph Doolen

A science policy writer with professional experience writing in Washington, San Francisco and Madison, Joseph holds an MS in Biology, an MA in Journalism and is pursuing a PhD. For media organizations, he has covered San Francisco Bay Area environmental news, D.C. politics and Wisconsin state news. This year he is writing for Yale, the Obama campaign and covering AAAS in Vancouver. Joseph has done environmental work and science research in Texas and at the flagship universities of Illinois, Wisconsin and Cal-Berkeley.

MORE FROM

Warrant suggests Justine Damond may have slapped police cruiser before she was fatally shot

The officers involved in the shooting remain on paid administrative leave.

House passes new sanctions against Russia by an enormous margin

The bill also places limits on Trump’s power to ease or end penalties against Russia.

Paul Manafort is meeting with Senate investigators. Here’s what we know about his Russia ties.

Paul Manafort has Russia links dating back more than 10 years.

Yes, Donald Trump can fire Robert Mueller. Here’s how he can do it.

It's a complicated process, and it could get messy, but he can do it.

Charlie Gard’s parents say they want to take their son home to die

The parents are returning to court to fight for their right to take their son home.

Vatican shuts off historic fountains in the midst of devastating drought

Officials say it's the first time they can recall ever shutting off the Vatican's fountains.

Warrant suggests Justine Damond may have slapped police cruiser before she was fatally shot

The officers involved in the shooting remain on paid administrative leave.

House passes new sanctions against Russia by an enormous margin

The bill also places limits on Trump’s power to ease or end penalties against Russia.

Paul Manafort is meeting with Senate investigators. Here’s what we know about his Russia ties.

Paul Manafort has Russia links dating back more than 10 years.

Yes, Donald Trump can fire Robert Mueller. Here’s how he can do it.

It's a complicated process, and it could get messy, but he can do it.

Charlie Gard’s parents say they want to take their son home to die

The parents are returning to court to fight for their right to take their son home.

Vatican shuts off historic fountains in the midst of devastating drought

Officials say it's the first time they can recall ever shutting off the Vatican's fountains.