Citizens United v Federal Election Commission & Campaign Finance
The Supreme Court Campaign Finance ruling involving Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has dramatically changed key provisions of the 2002 McCain-Feingold Act, clearing the way for unfettered and unlimited corporate and union campaign financing. Before Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission companies and unions would have to do it through Political Actions Committees (PAC's).
The Atlantic has a good summary of the Supreme Court campaign finance decision, saying the change in the Citizens United case eliminates the "middleman" (the PAC's).
"Now, however, the accounting firewall is gone, and Wal-Mart or the Service Employees International Union, for instance, can spend their corporate money directly on candidates."
The 5-4 Supreme Court decision essentially means the sky is the limit for political donations by corporations. Writing for the majority Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote
”We find no basis for the proposition that, in the context of political speech, the government may impose restrictions on certain disfavored speakers."
Justice John Paul Steven writing for the minority (all 4 Liberals on the Supreme Court) said the decision was an abrupt shift in first amendment precedent that had been established since the 1940s writing it was a ”radical departure from what had been settled First Amendment law.”
The decision has outraged public interest advocates like Ralph Nader.
"Today's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission shreds the fabric of our already weakened democracy by allowing corporations to more completely dominate our corrupted electoral process.
It is outrageous that corporations already attempt to influence or bribe our political candidates through their political action committees (PACs), which solicit employees and shareholders for donations. With this decision, corporations can now also draw on their corporate treasuries and pour vast amounts of corporate money, through independent expenditures, into the electoral swamp already flooded with corporate campaign PAC contribution dollars.
This corporatist, anti-voter decision is so extreme that it should galvanize a grassroots effort to enact a Constitutional Amendment to once and for all end corporate person hood and curtail the corrosive impact of big money on politics. It is indeed time for a Constitutional amendment to prevent corporate campaign contributions from commercializing our elections and drowning out the civic and political voices and values of citizens and voters. It is way overdue to overthrow "King Corporation" and restore the sovereignty of "We the People"!
Supporters of Citizens United and its campaign like the Cato Institute had this to say
"Today the Supreme Court struck a major blow for free speech by correctly holding that government cannot try to 'level the political playing field' by banning corporations from making independent campaign expenditures on films, books, or even campaign signs. ...In short, the Citizens United decision has strengthened both the First Amendment and American democracy."
One thing is clear that the campaign finance industry has changed, for both Democrats and Republican candidates. They now have the ability to raise money from more sources than ever before and with mid-term elections on the horizon political fund raisers will be knocking on corporate and union doors with more vigor then ever before.
Background Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission stems from 2008 case involving a conservative non-profit organization that wanted to run ads to promote its documentary on Hillary Clinton, called Hillary: The Movie (see video). The Federal Election Commission decided that the ads could air at the time they were slated to run - the eve of the democratic primaries. The Federal Election Commission sited a restriction o "electioneering communications" 30 days before the primaries.
Citizens United appealed and the case would its way to the Supreme Court.