Supreme Court: Opening the Floodgates to Corporate Influence

Flickr: takomabibelot

Shed a tear for our democracy today. The Supreme Court decision today in Citizens United vs. FEC has unleashed unlimited spending from corporate coffers to influence elections. We need to fight back by passing public financing in New York and in the Congress.

The broad decision today has overturned precedent and reversed the long-standing ban on corporations using their treasuries to advocate for political outcomes. With this decision, wealthy corporations can spend unlimited amounts on campaign ads for or against specific candidates. This is an invitation to big corporations like Goldman Sachs and others to increase their already enormous power to influence who runs for election, who wins, and what legislation they vote for.

Corporations are not individuals, but this decision treats them as such and makes the argument that they have free speech rights to political speech. The Court shows no understanding of the way big money has undermined our democracy and silenced the voices of citizens.

Call your state representatives and urge them to support public financing option for candidates in New York state. Now more than ever we need real reform in Albany that can restore trust and counter the power of big money. Also call your members of Congress to tell them to mitigate the effects of this decision by passing the “Fair Elections Now Act,” which would provide small donor contributions and public grants to qualified candidates.

The Court has made a terrible mistake in this 5-4 decision. As Justice Stevens wrote in his dissent, “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.” He lamented that the Court used “a sledgehammer rather than a scalpel” when it struck down “one of Congress’ most significant efforts to regulate the role that corporations and unions play in electoral politics.” Justice Stevens reasoned that the Court negated Congress’ efforts “without a shred of evidence.”

We must get our state and federal representatives to counter this decision. Write or call them today.

Click here to find out who your State Senate, Assemblymember, and member of Congress is.

Update: President Obama issued this statement regarding today’s Court decision:

With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans. This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington–while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates. That’s why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.


By Joan Mandle on January 21st, 2010
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