Unprecedented political spending. Secret donors. New ways for unions and corporations to spend money on politics.
An analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics reveals that the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court ruling of January 2010 has profoundly affected the nation’s political landscape.
Corporations and unions both benefited from the ruling, being able to use their general treasuries to pay for independent expenditures for the first time.
The Supreme Court decision Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, decided in a 5-4 decision on January 21, 2010, is a case which will live in infamy. What started out as asking permission to put a partisan movie on pay per view somehow ended up deciding that companies are people with the same free speech rights as citizens, that money equals speech, and that any limit on money spent by a corporation was a violation of their First Amendment rights, so companies should be allowed to spend unlimited amounts without even having to identify themselves. Corporations got the rights of personhood, ergo, without the responsibilities we have like spending limits, or the requirement to be publicly listed for your donation. This is not to get into the obvious inequity that corporations are really made up of other people who already have those same rights, or that corporations will have far more resources to spend with obvious financial incentives that people won’t. Seriously–what were they thinking?
Such a brazen act of judicial activism by the Roberts court was an even more partisan power grab than the decade old Bush v. Gore, which backed a partisan Secretary of State’s order that ballots in her state stop being counted so she could hurry up and award the election to the guy whose campaign she was working on. Where that decision improperly decided the outcome of one election, Citizens United has opened the floodgates for blizzards of overwhelming corporate spending in races across the country on all levels of government, from now on, unless something is done. [Read more]
Comcast gave money to the vast majority of the 97 members of the US House of Representatives that signed a letter to the Federal Communications Commission urging approval of a merger between cable company Comcast and broadcaster NBC Universal, according to research.
The 5 January letter, linked here [pdf] and circulated by nonprofit group Public Knowledge urged the merger be approved quickly and without conditions that could harm investment. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 84 of the 97 received money from Comcast, Public Knowledge said. The amounts range from token contributions of about $1,000 up to $25,100. [Read more]
Local New Hampshire member president refuses to use coffee cup with national logo
The backlash against the freewheeling US Chamber of Commerce has begun.
The mammoth pro-business lobby, which overwhelmingly supported Republicans in the 2010 election cycle, is drawing ire from member organizations who believe the panoply of anti-Democratic ads crossed the line.
The Chamber of Commerce spent $75 million on advertising in the election cycle. And now, some members are beginning to walk.
Forty-plus local chambers have now issued statements trying to place distance between their local emphasis and the actions of the national Chamber, Politico’s Jeanne Cummings reported Tuesday.
Perhaps most interesting are statements issued from local chambers in key primary states: Iowa and New Hampshire. [Read more]
The Supreme Court sent a wave of corporate and union money flooding into campaign ads this year, but it did so with the promise that the public would know — almost instantly — who was paying for them.
“With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in January. “This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”
But Kennedy and the high court majority were wrong. Because of loopholes in tax laws and a weak enforcement policy at the Federal Election Commission, corporations and wealthy donors have been able to spend huge sums on campaign ads, confident the public will not know who they are, election law experts say.
Corporate donors have been able to hide their contributions despite the opposition of shareholders and customers — the very groups cited by Kennedy. [Read more]
The intense focus placed on the money being spent in the 2010 elections has had an unexpected impact within the small the world of campaign finance reformers. While the delicate system of fundraising constraints born in the wake of Watergate has crumbled — allowing for the unprecedented flow of corporate and even anonymous funds — the chaos has also created a modicum of opportunity. The current climate, campaign finance reformers say, may be one of the most opportune moments to spur the reform of the system.
“This is a crisitunity,” said Sheila Krumholz, Executive Director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan group that reports on money in politics. “This may be the beginning of the post Citizens United chapter in history which replaces scrutiny and limits with emphasis on free speech. And that might bolster a passionate response from the public to strengthen and reinvigorate disclosure and even limits to try and counter what the courts have done.” [Read more]