See also SuperPACs and Secret Money
In the 2010 “Citizens United vs. FEC,” the Supreme Court ruled that political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections. While corporations or unions may not give money directly to campaigns, they may seek to persuade the voting public through other means, such as media.
From Miriam Marziani:
In Citizens United v. FEC, the Court held that corporations and unions have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited funds on campaign advertisements, provided that these communications are not formally “coordinated” with any candidate. In so holding, it found that the political speech rights of American voters and corporate entities are indistinguishable.
Citizens United’s immediate impact was substantial. In one swift stroke, the Court overturned at least twenty years of its own precedent, rendered unconstitutional more than sixty years of federal law restricting corporate electioneering expenditures, and annihilated the statutes of twenty-two states that previously prohibited election spending from corporate general-treasury funds. Citizens United also ignited widespread popular, academic and political discussion about money, politics and the Constitution—a nationwide dialogue that has not yet abated.
Now that we are well into the 2012 election cycle, the decision’s lasting effects are clearer and clearer.
Useful informational graphic from 2010, outlining the effects of the Citizens United decision.
This 8 minute video from “The Story of Stuff” is a great introduction to the history and current status of money in our politics and what we can do about it.
On January 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court (in a case called Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission) ruled that the First Amendment gives corporations a right to spend unlimited amounts of money trying to influence elections.
Overnight, bedrock principles like “one person, one vote” and “government of, by and for the people” were undermined.
Now, our democracy is at grave risk of becoming nothing more than an auction-one in which the We the People will always be outbid.
Corporations are not people. They do not breathe or eat or sleep. They do not dance or fall in love or raise children. They do not go bowling or fight in wars or get cancer. They do not vote. Yet now they threaten to trample democracy by claiming constitutional protections that were intended only for actual people.
U.S Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), succinctly expressing what millions of Americans — from people in your community to President Barack Obama — are thinking, called Citizens United “one of the worst decisions I have ever seen.”
The ruling must be overturned, and a constitutional amendment is the best way to do that.
–from “Democracy is for People“
…Sometimes it takes a comic or two to show the absurdities of our world. Watch Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, and former John McCain 2008 Presidential Campaign advisor Trevor Potter discuss the complicated legalese of SuperPACs and the fuzzy borders of “Campaign Coordination.”
Vodpod videos no longer available.
90 seconds from Ben & Jerry’s on “Getting the Dough out”