The impact of Citizens United
On Jan. 21 2010, the Supreme Court in a 5—4 decision held that the First Amendment prohibits government from placing a limit on independent spending for political purposes by corporations and unions. In this ruling, corporations constitute as people and money is a form of free speech.
Some vehemently disagree with the 2010 decision, while others believe it won’t have much of an effect. And with the race to the Republican candidacy and 2012 Presidential election, only time will tell of the Citizen’s United decision’s effectiveness on campaigns and ultimately voter preference.
The decision has paved the way for “super PACs,” or super political action committees, which are groups that can raise and spend unrestricted amounts of money to support or oppose candidates – they just can’t organize or coordinate with the candidates they’re backing. They are officially known as “independent-expenditure only committees,” which means they can raise unlimited amounts of money on behalf of corporations, individuals, unions, and other organizations. There is to be no direct coordination – no exclusive communication between the supporter and supported; it must all remain independent – even if supported and supporter are old friends.
Newt Gingrich just received a whopping $10 million in donations from the super PAC called “Winning Our Future.” Though given on behalf of WOF, the payment was issued in “halfsies” by the Adelsons – Mr. Sheldon Adelson, a casino mogul out of Vegas, and his wife, Miriam, who wanted to match her husband’s gift.
The Adelsons are friends of Gingrich’s and have supported his endeavors over the years, this being their largest contribution to his cause yet – meeting the maximum contribution allowed to his campaign. But their relationship with Newt cannot change the fact that they aren’t allowed a political relationship – no trying to influence the candidate with the allure of a fat check.
But something tells me people don’t just give millions of dollars away without succeeding in some sort of personal interest.
And how can this “rule” of “no connection to the campaign” even be enforced? Do these committees really run independently of the candidates they endorse? My guess is no; and if you look up the people who comprise super PACs “Restore Our Future” supporting Mitt Romney, the “Solutions 2012” for Gingrich, “Revolution PAC” for Ron Paul, and “Priorities USA Action” supporting Barack Obama, you may wonder just how independent the committee is from the candidate, and vise versa.
OK, I’ll ruin the surprise: the biggest donors to those committees were the candidates’ close associates – their former campaign directors, former aides, former advisers, former attorneys – old buddies. Guys who the candidate worked with, guys that worked for him. But this time around, they’re not connected – they just want to give money to their old bosses and clients.
Adding to the super PAC influence, or potential for, is the fact that the Citizens United decision has allowed for the potential influence of anyone who has some money or power. Corporate power has entered politics. “The man” may very well have the upper hand, and we’ll likely never know the bulk of any impact a company may have on a candidate or a candidate may have on a company. Corporations and lobbyists might have even more power in Washington now, and it’s all a result of some people feeling the need to reverse a rule that has been in effect since Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency.
"Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections,” President Obama said in his 2010 State of the Union Address. “Well I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities."
Justice Paul Stevens, who wrote the dissenting opinion on the Supreme Court decision, said that the American people have always felt a need to prevent organizations from undermining self-government. He said they “have always who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering.” He essentially said that this decision takes away from the people and their ideals.
What ever happened to “We the people?” Should we work with that part of the Constitution next?