It is reasonable, constitutional and appropriate for the president in his duties to the American Public as the ‘Administrator-in-Chief’ to make those companies seeking federal contracts disclose their political spending. We have a right to know how they spend money politically. Even the Citizens United v FEC majority decision cites DISCLOSURE as the first remedy.
The president is expected to administer the government effectively. This disclosure is one of the simplest ways, not involving a constitutional amendment or the passage of new laws, to make governance more accountable. But it does still require the president to make the call and administer his spending programs with this requirement going forward.
You may have previously signed a petition on this matter. If so, THANK YOU. Petitions have been delivered from several organizations to the White House over the last year and they have moved the debate closer to victory. But now we are approaching a moment of truth. The president is expected to decide soon. It’s time to make a direct appeal.
Like most of the ‘Clicktivism’ campaigns we have suggested to you before, this one is really quite easy. You call a number; you’re routed to a Comments Line at the White House. You speak your mind free form or simply read from the script. For the author of this blog it took about two minutes to get through and then say, “I want the president to sign an executive order demanding that federal contractors disclose their political spending.”
Common Cause explains the Action Here. <–Click the link
Common Cause will guide you through the action and help you then spread the word for others to join our effort. Please note that the action STARTED on June 8th, but will remain active for the remainder of this week and into next week. But the sooner you call, the more obvious our coordinated effort will be to those in White House. It’s easy, so why not do it now?
Just a quick blog today to mention an event in Morristown, NJ on Thursday evening of this week. These speakers are excellent and will take you to the heart of the money in politics question. I strongly recommend making this event. New Jersey Get Money Out groups will have people there as well. Don’t miss it.
Details and Registration here. NJPPN Money Control Program – or check out the details below:
Thursday, April 28, 2016
7:30pm – 9:30pm
CONVENT OF SAINT ELIZABETH
2 Convent Rd *
Morristown, NJ 07960
The Citizens United decision has led to an unprecedented influx of money in our elections, causing a shift of political power away from ordinary citizens and toward the large money donors. Witnessing growing governmental dysfunction and the non-responsiveness of elected officials, too many Americans no longer trust the political process. Our democratic system includes powerful mechanisms for repair, but fixing the broken American promise will require concerted citizen action.
Timothy K. Kuhner is associate professor of law at Georgia State University and author of Capitalism v. Democracy: Money in Politics and the Free Market Constitution. He will discuss how the Supreme Court went wrong in applying a market-based analysis to the political sphere of our Constitution, and how this has caused the effective transformation of our form of government from a democracy to a plutocracy.
Jeffrey D. Clements is president of American Promise, co-founder of Free Speech for People and author of Corporations are Not People: Reclaiming Democracy from Big Money and Global Corporations. He will speak to how the political transformation has resulted in major legislative changes that benefit special interests rather than the public interest, and how this can be remedied by passage of the 28th amendment and other citizen action.
SEATING IS LIMITED
* Directions from Rt. 124/Madison Ave: turn off Madison Ave onto Convent Rd, cross tracks, make first right at guard station and park in front of large building w/portico.
North Jersey Public Policy Network is a non-partisan, 501c3 organization committed to providing authoritative information on key public policy issues to its network and to the public.
By Susannah Newman (posted by administrator)
Recent SCOTUS decisions:
In 2010, Citizens United equated money with free speech under the 1st Amendment and restated in stronger terms that a corporation is the same as a natural born person with regard to campaign spending. A few months later, the Speech Now decision created the SuperPAC and this year the McCutcheon decision removed aggregate contribution limits by an individual from campaign finance laws. Finally, with the Hobby Lobby decision, SCOTUS has conferred corporate religious rights for bosses over the rights of employees.
Ten Brief arguments against these decisions to be taken together, in combination or separately:
The problem of money in politics can only be fixed by grassroots pressure on politicians to pass 1) a constitutional amendment, which will lay the path for 2) unchallengeable campaign finance reforms. 87%-90% of voters across the spectrum agree that overturning the above decisions is A MUST.
Big money has become deafening and drowns out the voices of the ordinary citizen, whose single vote cannot compete with the voting power given to the billionaire or the large corporation or unions through unlimited campaign donations.
A Constitutional Amendment giving Congress the power to limit election spending will RESTORE the 1st Amendment by amplifying the voices of ordinary citizens to a more equitable level; i.e. government by the people, not by the money. With such an amendment in place, necessary campaign finance reform laws, such as the Government by the People Act and the DISCLOSE Act) will be safe from a SCOTUS challenge.
While corporations are composed of people, they are NOT, in fact, people, but LEGAL ENTITIES created by the state. Nowhere in the Constitution is the word “corporation” even mentioned. (The founding fathers’ fear of corporate and moneyed power is well documented.) Today corporations are global and through these recent SCOTUS decisions, foreign interests can influence elections and therefore policy.
Who has more access to a congressional office: the one who gave $300,000 or the one who gave $30 to the campaign? Unfortunately, candidates must now go after the big money: one $100,000 donation is easier to get than ten thousand $10 donations. Good public servants are made complicit in this corrupting system.
For example, why is it that 90% of the American people want background checks on gun ownership, but Congress has NOT passed any common sense legislation to control gun violence? FOLLOW THE MONEY and its accompanying OVERT POLITICAL INTIMIDATION.
The greatest fear that any candidate has is that just before the election, some anonymously funded SuperPAC will drop $1 million in ads, etc… against him/her. To become insulated from this tactic, BIG MONEY donors are sought who, in turn, insist the candidate agree with the donors’ politics. This is a corrupting reality.
In 2012, 132 Americans funded 60% of SuperPAC money. By 2014, that number will represent only .01% of America, which clearly makes our governmental system no longer a representative democracy. Our current Congress is not dependent “on the People alone”, but on the Funders. This is corruption. Not bribery, but corruption. We need only look to the days of the Robber Barons to know how money in politics corrupts and, sadly, destroys lives.
While there is rarely actual, legally verifiable, quid pro quo corruption (politicians and plutocrats are too careful for that), evidence of implied corruption and policy-by-money is seen by voters all over the country. This has contributed to unparalleled cynicism and distrust of government; BIG MONEY is responsible for this.
Time is running out. We are quickly becoming a plutocracy and losing our democracy. Power now comes from money and public policy is driven by corporate interests over the long-term best interests of the People. We must AMEND the CONSTITUTION and then REFORM CAMPAIGN FINANCE.
Okay – the quick and easy version of this blog.
We’ve got info from New Jersey candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives about their views on money in politics and amending the constitution to save the Republic.
…or even quicker and easier, See the Summary
And now for the detailed version of this blog, in which we brag about how much work this was and how cool we are to have taken it all on!
NJOCU recently contacted candidates for the House of Representatives in the state of New Jersey. We asked for the candidate’s views on money in politics as well as the candidate’s strategy, if any, for fixing the problem. Formed in the wake of Citizens Untied, NJOCU has always seen a constitution amendment to overturn at least portions of that decision as necessary. For us, without an amendment, campaign finance regulation, lobbying reform, closing the revolving door, safeguards against cronyism, and a government of, by and for the people will always be under threat from politics and the courts. There’s just too much evidence that the lure or possession of power will draw out the exploiters and the misguided.
We attempted to reach all the candidates; six were un-findable. We sent them background information on the issue and an “Ask.” We pointed out that the NJOCU coalition represents 27 statewide business associations and community and political organizations, and over 17,000 New Jersey petition signers determined to get big money out of politics. NJOCU successfully spearheaded the passage of amendment resolutions in 13 NJ municipalities along with resolutions on both sides of the NJ legislature. In other words, the New Jersey Legislature has already asked Congress for an amendment.
We asked each candidate for an endorsement of a constitutional amendment (by bill number if possible) or at least some legislative alternative that the candidate preferred. If they didn’t see a solution or the need for a solution, then we respectfully asked them to explain that position.
We had to treat a non-response to our Ask as a non-endorsement of the amendment campaign and indeed of any other approach to fixing the problem of money’s corrupting influence over democracy. How much we were able to offer our own knowledge of this far reaching topic to candidates, who are undoubtedly considering many issues right now, depended mostly on the availability and responsiveness of the candidate. We are 100% volunteer-based so we could only reach out as far as the schedule and our resources allowed.
Our volunteers did attend in-person meetings with some candidates (our thanks to the candidates as well). We also offered dialog over the phone and by email. We made a real effort to show the candidates other solutions when they weren’t sure about the amendment idea. In many cases we showed them the American Anti-Corruption Act (AACA) and the Government By The People Act (GBTP). And finally we offered, upon request, the roughly 17,000 signed petitions in paper or PDF form. Or if they wished, we showed them petition signers from only their relevant district.
Every candidate was shown What’s Wrong with Money in Politics, three examples of amendment bills now in Congress, the list of states requesting an amendment proposal from Congress and the formal Ask document. Beyond that, the background information varied according to what feedback the candidate provided to us. Here’s an example of our Pitch.
What’s Wrong with Money in Politics is a list of effects that spring reliably from the moneyed approach to political campaigning and the effects of money aggregators like unions and lobbyists. Note that the effects of money are counter-productive for both sides of the political spectrum.
Outside Spending, Outsized Influence (PDF) shows a who’s who of outside interests trying to manipulate New Jersey congressional races. It’s immaterial which side they each represent, because in any election the most influential side can change, depending on which interest groups decide to meddle and for what objectives. Nor is the problem limited to national politics. Indeed, it may prove more significant at the state level, where local money is insufficient to turn back big outside moneyed interests who descend on state legislative races. First we saw an outside group sue the state for having campaign finance laws. Super PAC sues N.J. over contribution limits. Then we all watched the money flow in from outside. As the legal suit demonstrated, New Jersey as a state is forbidden by federal courts from truly regulating its own elections.
The Supreme Court has codified much of the problem by declaring that the expenditure of money is a form of free speech. We believe that the right to speak one’s true convictions and the privilege of amplifying one’s own views to a level that drowns out all others are two very different things. The court has also codified the idea that legal fictions, organizations and money aggregators can uniformly claim the same rights as that of a natural person and citizen. There is already evidence of foreign nationals using their affiliations to inject money into election campaigns in the USA. There are numerous other pitfalls to the concept. In the Citizens United case, the court also settled into the view that election and lobbying laws can only address explicit quid pro corruption. This is not merely wrong, but absurdly unrealistic. If white collar crime were held to this standard, using a method that didn’t succeed 100% of the time would form a valid defense.
But it gets worse. Recently the court declared it legal for one donor to give millions of dollars spread over the entire Congress or perhaps more likely over one party. The court rejected precedent which held that the appearance of corruption IS corruption. Handing over money to every congress person on a collection of key committees definitely looks like the purchase of influence. Many voters in our democracy, upon seeing this, deeply question the system’s integrity. But the court says it’s legal. Thus the problem worsens even as many are trying to fix it. For all of these reasons and several lesser concerns, NJOCU and many groups support at least one constitutional amendment to deal with the corrupting influence of money in politics.
In the 113th session of Congress there are two legislative strategies for amending the constitution. Under the first of these strategies, two bills each propose one of two needed amendments. One of the two amendments clarifies that persons and people in the constitution refer to actual persons and people, not artificial legal constructs. The other amendment asserts the responsibility and authority of the people’s government to regulate campaign finance. The second strategy combines both of these provisions into one bill that proposes one amendment. As such, these two strategies represent three bills on each side of the congress, i.e. in the House and the Senate, or six bills total. These two strategies have the greatest support in Congress (the most sponsors and co-sponsors). For this reason these bills are explicitly mentioned in the NJOCU “Ask.” We believe in a vigorous debate on how to best amend the constitution, but these bills form a good starting point. There are other amendment proposals. United 4 the People provides a complete list.
The New Jersey State legislature in 2012 passed AR86 and SR47 asking Congress for a constitutional amendment to deal with this problem. 15 other states have done similarly and within New Jersey 13 municipalities have joined the chorus. The current list of local and state entities that have passed such resolutions.
There are also legislative steps that might be taken without a constitutional amendment. The two most notable are the American Anti-Corruption Act (PDF) and the Government By the People Act (PDF). The AACA directly regulates lobbying and revolving door practices and funds elections with vouchers. The GBTP Act allocates public campaign funds that are so substantial that outside moneyed interests are disincentivized from competing. The formula is still based on citizen support and does not level the playing field artificially. Both bills have been vetted as constitutional even by current standards.
87% of ordinary people are angry at all the big money coming into our elections. NJOCU, like so many Americans, wants the SCOTUS decisions that are responsible for this deluge of money overturned. But even after amending the constitution, the working solution will be implemented as a law. With an amendment, the law will be simpler and more effective, but it will still be a law. NJOCU therefore supports the best laws we can possibly implement as soon as is possible, both before and after an amendment is passed.
At least 2/3 of nearly every identifiable political group in America is opposed to the corrupting influence of money in politics including such diverse groups as the Tea Party and MoveOn.org. Republicans and Democrats both poll in opposition to the increasingly influence of money over policy. Small business owners are one of the most concerned at 90%. A recent Gallop poll showed that when money in politics was included among options it polled as the country’s second most important issue behind jobs. It’s time to start talking, thinking and acting on this long endured distorting influence over our democracy.
In what will possibly be a landmark decision in the history of American democracy, reality is strictly off limits.
Back in early October of 2013, activists rose together briefly to decry an expected court reversal of campaign finance limits. Yes, you read that correctly. The Supreme Court took on a new case that argues in favor of more money in our election process. 3 ½ years after the Citizens United decision; after the emergence of Super-PACs; after a money-fueled roller-coaster ride through the Republican primaries, after Sheldon Adelson’s help and hindrance to Mitt Romney, after a $2B+ presidential race; and even after the longest, most sustained, and most well-organized effort ever mounted AGAINST the corrupting influence of money in politics; we were watching the Supreme Court now questioning long established donor limits – limits that Citizens United had not touched. We were going backwards.
Contribution (donor) limits were found constitutional in Buckley v Valeo in 1976. The reasoning in Buckley was that giving money to a candidate looks a lot like a bribe. So far so simple. Even if the donor has no such designs, the appearance of corruption is treated as corrupting of trust. So, to avoid actual and apparent bribes, the amount that a donor may give to politicians may be limited by law. The reasoning is clear. With limits on each donor, no donor can stand out as deserving of political favors. Importantly, campaign donations were not held to be expressions of free speech. To campaign for office, the candidate expresses his or her own opinions. There is no assumption that the donor’s views will be expressed at all. So while a candidate can give to her own campaign and spend without limit, the donor has rules. The current limits for each donor are $2600 per candidate per election cycle and $123,000 dollars total per election cycle.
Alabama businessman, Shaun McCutcheon (along with the Republican National Committee), thinks that limiting the total amount he can give in any election cycle is unconstitutional. His reasoning is that if he can give $2600 to any one politician, and that is not considered corrupt, then he should be able to give that amount to as many politicians as he likes and not be considered corrupt. McCutcheon has said that he is not arguing with the dollar limit per candidate, only with the number of candidates (or total dollars). But in his written arguments, he questions the relevance of contribution limits in a campaign finance landscape so altered (broken) by Citizens United. When donors can give unlimited money to a PAC that campaigns for a candidate openly, and the total dollars reach stratospheric heights, is McCutcheon a victim of government censorship for following the direct candidate contribution rules?
The simple answer is “No,” but before exploring this twisty bit of nonsense, let’s back up and look at the reality of American politics under Buckley v Valeo, Citizens United and SpeechNOW. Currently, the average Senator wakes up every morning needing to find another $20,000+. By various estimates a congress person spends from 30 to 70% of her time beating the bushes for money. Money is essential for continued political survival. Congress people depend on money and that money comes from a tiny sliver of citizens. According to Lawrence Lessig a mere 0.26% (roughly one quarter of one percent) of Americans give $200 or more to any candidate. A smaller five one-hundredths of a percent give the maximum allowed to any candidate. And only one one-hundredth of a percent give more than $10,000 total. A mere 132 people provided 60% of all the (Citizens-United-SpeechNOW-enabled) PAC funding in the last election. None of this reality was discussed on McCutcheon’s day in court.
Instead the court listened to assertions on both sides, and then repeatedly asked how this or that specific funding transaction might alter an election outcome or buy a favor. Lyle Denniston on SCOTUS Blog asked, “If the Supreme Court really does not understand how money moves around in American politics, how can it fashion constitutional rules to prevent abuses?” A good question. But even more importantly, if the Supreme Court does not understand the basic concept of systemic corruption, the idea that the democracy is not representative of its people, then almost all of the detailed legalese is useless. According to Jeffrey Toobin in New Yorker magazine, Justice Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion in Citizens United, reduced the discussion of all corruption to the purchase of political favors – a giving of this for that (quid pro quo). Systemic corruption cannot be mentioned.
McCutcheon’s arguments fail on several accounts. Firstly consider his cynical question about the post Citizen United America of SuperPACs. The legal argument used for allowing independent entities, not coordinating with a candidate directly, to solicit and spend unlimited amounts of money is that they are speaking freely as protected in the First Amendment. Conversely, giving money directly to a politician has been held to not be free speech and it can look like a bribe. But why limit the number of candidates – McCutcheon’s original question? Because it takes more than one congress person to pass a bill. And because one donor can stand out among all donors in precisely this way. This is mind-numbingly simple. Mr. McCutcheon wants to buy himself a congress or a party or a caucus or a committee. Every day that his protégés meet to discuss the course of the democracy, they are nagged by their financial dependence on their patron. There will be at least one and probably many situations where they will consider the impact of their actions on their patron ahead of the public at large and perhaps even ahead of their own specific constituency.
We the People are not obliged to prove that this system of wrong dependencies serves only quid pro quo corruption, but frankly, there’s absolutely no reason to think it doesn’t. One gives the money. Another gives the outcome. The only question is really ‘how much corruption’ results. And the answer, unfortunately, is ‘plenty,’ because it ALL looks like corruption. Remember that the appearance of corruption has already been determined to be corruptive. In study after study, the American people have voiced that they see the system as corrupted. They disagree with Citizens United and expanded corporate personhood. They distrust moneyed-interests. They think there’s too much money in politics. More than 2/3 of nearly every identifiable group in politics has some if not major issues with how things work, from self-identified Republicans, Democrats, Tea Party advocates, members of MoveOn, union workers to small business owners there is a basic mistrust of financially dependent politicians. Our system is corrupted.
Just don’t try to tell that to the Supreme Court.
And that is the most painful aspect of this case. Almost everyone who has considered this case, seeing that the obvious real corruption cannot be mentioned in arguments, presumes that the overall contribution limits are about to fall. The system will tilt further off its axis. The activists who complained on the steps of the Supreme Court building back in October – they meekly wait. A decision is imminent, but there is no media campaign to shine a light on the issue. The McCutcheon case needs public discourse that the SCOTUS might actually recognize. But sadly it seems that if the people want to be heard, they’ll need to first find some very wealthy patrons.
I think it’s time to start pointing the corruption issue directly at the president. No, I’m not accusing Barack Obama of hiding bags of money in his freezer, nor am I complaining about corporate friendly policies he’s backed, although he’s backed some that have been troubling. But thinking strategically, we should be holding Obama to his own words on money in politics and lobbying. In “Republic, Lost,” Lawrence Lessig waxes poetic about Obama’s encouraging rhetoric leading into the 2008 election. And then Lessig points dismally to what really transpired.
To me this was always one of the singularly more promising aspects of candidate Obama and I KNOW personally several libertarians and conservatives who voted for him on that basis alone. The media hyped up Obama’s lyrical pronouncements – stuff about changing the business-as-usual culture in Washington and shutting the revolving door to K-Street, but the media had no interest in the real underlying promise. As soon as Obama was elected, we were right back to chasing one crisis after another and picking deeply partisan sides on everything. Why should the media have pressed Obama? The money wars are fought within the framework of media. They’re the beneficiaries. Only Obama himself can change the narrative.
So it seems that reaching Obama could matter. It takes 100,000 signatures to get a response from him directly. What we want is a truly one-issue face-forward press conference promoting his-own campaign promise – a public setting of priorities that puts the corrupting influence of money in politics squarely at the top. Sure the president will be distracted by more crisis-governance in the next few months. But maybe, just maybe he’ll also consider that setting this priority will allow him to control the narrative and more pieces on the chess board. Who knows, but we can’t complain if we haven’t tried. Please join me in telling the president to SAY IT.
“The number one priority in America should be to reduce the corrupting influence of money in the America political system.”
One reason that recent court cases have been decided as they have is that the Justices try to draw a direct line between any action and actual or perceived corruption. Reading their arguments, we find that they cannot discern such connections. And yet common sense tells most Americans that the system has indeed become corrupt.
For those of you who get weary of reading here are two links to video and audio content, respectively.
The first video is a lecture given recently in San Francisco by Lawrence Lessig. Lessig, the author of “Republic, Lost,” is truly intimate with the full depth of the problem as seen from many perspectives. This is admittedly long-ish content, but if you need a few visits to the video get it all, it’s worth it.
The second linked content is a multipart edition of “The American Life” on NPR. Here we see what endemic corruption looks like. It’s not quid-pro-quo – not strictly. It’s a form of corruption running so deep that most everyone is just swimming-to-survive at this point.
“Citizens United” is a 2010 US Supreme Court decision holding that significant parts of the 2002 McCain/Feingold campaign reform bill were unconstitutional. The case is probably most famous for determining that a corporation is a ‘person’ as referenced in the First Amendment and therefore possesses the right of free speech.
The decision also doubled down on the premise that money equals free speech – an idea established in the 1976 decision, Buckley v Valero. Looking at all the particulars given in the majority opinion for Citizens United, subsequent court decisions have begun a startling process of unraveling any and every effort of the people to make their campaigns open, fair and free.
We at NJOCU are troubled by this in the extreme. We see that the influence of money on the election process as corruptive. We speak not of quid-pro-quo, but of endemic corruption, that alters not just the way we elect our representatives by how they then govern – or in many cases, how they fail to govern.
New Jersey for the Overturn of Citizens United is an alliance of committed individuals and groups. We are working to get money out of politics to whatever extent is possible. While any member, member group or endorser may hold specific partisan views on specific political issues, the alliance is nonpartisan. We are expanding our alliance across the political spectrum in New Jersey. Please contact us if you or your group is interested in joining in our campaign.
Corporations are not people and money is not free speech.
WHAT are we saying specifically?
Our campaign “New Jersey for the Overturn of Citizens United” stands for two simple ideas.
Money is not free speech
Corporations are not people
We think that elected representatives at various levels of America’s federal, state and local governments should be able to reasonably and carefully regulate the conduct of campaigns to make them as fair and open as possible. We do not believe that the ability to spend or collect large amounts of money should become the only pathway to “free” speech. We further do not agree that corporations are persons (or more specifically, citizens). While various entities composed of many people may be formed in a free society, it is another matter altogether to treat the resulting group as a ‘person’ under the constitution. Uniquely describing some groups as constitutional ‘persons’ while others groups are not, such as the SCOTUS has recently done, is profoundly wrong. The press, we should remember, is expressly mentioned in the first amendment, and its rights are already outlined there. We do not contend that a corporation may not be considered a part of the ‘press.’ We acknowledge that the press might need definition.
All of the above said, we do not seek here to write the language of the US Constitution. We do not even contend that the majority decision in Citizens United and the subsequent cases mentioned on this site have been completely without merit. Instead we contend that the findings were constrained by limited language describing very complex ideas and that the decisions did not point us toward solutions that actually work. Actual outcomes DO matter. We believe that earlier cases regarding campaign laws have also failed to address the problem of money in politics and to protect freedom of speech for all persons. There is only so much that can be determined in court. To settle this matter, there needs to be a national discourse and a drafting of an amendment by the Congress to allow, at minimum, for campaign regulation in the clear best interest of the people as people were intended by the founders in the Bill of Rights. Groups of people, unions and incorporations of shareholders are served by serving the people. Freedom, fairness, and a healthy continuation of democracy are at stake if we do not act.
What’s wrong with Money in Politics?
- Moneyed interests are often unconcerned with good government.
- Moneyed interests tend to make laws more complicated by inserting their specific (self-interested) demands. Complex laws make for Bigger, less efficient government.
- Money interests will often encourage government to ‘pick a winner.’
- Moneyed interests tend to favor privatizing profits and socializing losses.
- Lobbyists, whose expertise is often needed in the legislative process, are now the same people most directly funding the politician’s campaign, thus comprising the objectivity of the exchange.
- Lobbyists gain such continued and familiar access to elected officials that policy focus is shifted away from representation of the actual constituency.
- Policies not related to money, but instead to issues like family values, civil rights, diversity or conservative social ideals, may be overwhelmed by political deal-making that seeks first and foremost to serve moneyed interests.
- Moneyed interests will support incumbent politicians just to gain access to committees or other political allies. This distorts the actual interests of the voters, and makes voter-instigated change much more difficult.
- The job of collecting money is too distracting. Not all of the players in the ‘arms race’ of campaign financing are willing participants. Many are dragged along. Many are rendered ineffective by the demands of constant campaigning and fundraising. This issue goes WAY beyond a simplistic case of ‘quid pro quo.’ This is systemic corruption.
- Money is NOT free speech. Money is just a volume knob on certain speech from certain political special interests.
- Corporate personhood, when combined with America’s treaty law, can actually result in the surrender of the sovereignty of federal, state and local governments to foreign moneyed interests.
- Small businesses, the engine of the real economy, find that they now need to compete not only in the marketplace but in the in political arena. More than two-thirds of all small business owners disagree with Citizens United and even more complain that money in politics is bad for business.
- Money in Politics corrupts the fundamental vision of a democracy by and for the PEOPLE.
While money in politics does not always come from what we might all agree is a “moneyed interest,” it is important to understand that the distorting effects of money can be just as damaging in the hands of those with the best of intentions. The complaint here is not that those with money are wrong. It is the role of money itself that is wrong. Money should not be the final authority in determining what is discussed, what is heard, what is right or wrong or implemented or ignored.
Some slightly deeper background information
“Citizens United” is a 2010 US Supreme Court decision holding that significant parts of the 2002 McCain/Feingold campaign reform bill was unconstitutional. The case is probably most famous for determining that a corporation is a ‘person’ as defined by the First Amendment and therefore possesses the right of free speech. Many people across America were discouraged to see this seemingly false equivalence held up as the law of the land. Others were just as upset to see that once again the elected legislative branch of the country had been voided by the unelected judicial branch. Still others debated the particulars of the case, and the dissenters within the court had many followers outside the court who agreed that the decision would lead to campaign abuses.
Citizen’s United has indeed led to what many believe are abuses. Certainly the case has changed American politics in fundamental ways. As such, the words “Citizens United” are recognizable and are even found in the name of this alliance. But we urge you to learn more. The problems we are addressing run deeper than any one court case.
The Citizens United decision cited a prior case to point out that campaign contributions may be limited by law, but campaign expenditures may not. The simplest way to understand this idea is that a contribution can be seen as an effort to corrupt, while an expenditure is purely an effort to express – that is to freely speak (money = speech). Corporations, the court said, could not be constrained from unlimited free speech. Based on Citizens United, the DC Circuit court found in the SpeechNOW case that a person, corporation or union, may contribute unlimited amounts of money to any entity exclusively engaged in ‘independent expenditures.’ SpeechNOW is a PAC that does not contribute to candidates, but only expresses itself politically, independent of coordination with any candidate. From this decision we have seen the emergence of the SuperPACs, bloated with money and free to spend endlessly.
Then in 2011, the court again decided against the right of an elected legislature to regulate campaigns. The right of free speech was again the concern cited by the court. In this case the ‘free’ speech was for well-funded candidates who might be burdened by an opponent whose ideas were being heard ‘equally’ by the voters. Any campaign law that attempted to assure that both candidates would be heard was unfair to the better funded and therefore a violation of his free speech.
As the Citizens United case continues to evolve into the law of the land, rippling through state and local governments and campaign practices, we see more and more that we cannot expect that regulation of our elections will be constitutional or at least useful in light of the limitations. Certainly, anyone can understand that regulating an election to actually be unfair should not be constitutional, but it is much harder to see how the current trend is in the right direction. The ‘rights’ and ‘freedoms’ which the court has used to justify their concerns are clearly outweighed by the rights and freedoms of other parties which the court has chosen to ignore.
Some excerpts from Justice Stevens’s dissenting opinion:
“Five Justices were unhappy with the limited nature of the case before us, so they changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.”
“The Framers thus took it as a given that corporations could be comprehensively regulated in the service of the public welfare. Unlike our colleagues, they had little trouble distinguishing corporations from human beings, and when they constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individual Americans that they had in mind.”
“At the federal level, the express distinction between corporate and individual political spending on elections stretches back to 1907, when Congress passed the Tillman Act.”
“We have held that speech can be regulated differentially on account of the speaker’s identity, when identity is understood in categorical or institutional terms. The Government routinely places special restrictions on the speech rights of students, prisoners, members of the Armed Forces, foreigners, and its own employees.”
“At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self-government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.”