This is the last in a three-part series.
Alan J. Yeck
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
This is the mother of all corruption. First, understand that ‘Citizens United’ is not an organization that actually wants citizens to unite, or is looking out for your best interest. The name was chosen as a decoy. It’s intent was corporate ownership of our government and that is what this decision has allowed.
In a 5-4 split decision, the Supreme Court invalidated a provision in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act that prohibited unions and corporations from giving money to election campaigns. Justice Kennedy, speaking for the majority, said that the corporations and unions had their First Amendment right of free speech violated. The government argued that the ban, for over 100 years, had helped to fight corruption but Kennedy said that “…the anticorruption interest is not sufficient to displace the speech here in question.” Their faulty assumption was that corporate spending would be transparent and incorruptible – both terrible assumptions that have been proven completely wrong.
The Justices that dissented called the decision “profoundly misguided…the ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the nation.” Justice Stevens also wrote that this ruling would greatly increase the influence and power corporations have in determining the winners in elections. Since his retirement, Stevens has advocated for a constitutional amendment to overrule the Court’s decision. The Citizens United ruling opened the flood gates for corporations, extremely wealthy individual donors, and special interest groups to buy politicians, political parties, and remove the people of the United States from the legislative process.
Remember PACs can contribute directly to a candidate’s campaign but there are restrictions on how much they can raise, and contribute ($5,000 per year, per election) but a new beast was created in 2010. A federal appeals court, citing Citizens United, ruled in the case of Speechnow.org v. FEC, that as long as they don’t give directly to candidate’s campaigns, outside groups had no limit on the money they could raise or spend in influencing election results — promoting a candidate and/or smearing another.
These new Nazi U-Boats used against American democracy are called Super PACs. The icing on the corruption cake is that while Super PACs have to disclose where their money came from, the questionable non-profits that donated that money to the Super PACs do not (this is called dark money). This means that China and/or Wells Fargo can give billions to these shady non-profits to ensure their candidates get elected, and there’s no way to trace the money to them. Once elected, the politician will vote how they’re told to vote by their corporate masters. This is our system. Are you disgusted?
According to OpenSecrets.org, as of January 10, 2021, 2,276 groups organized as super PACs have reported total receipts of $3,164,953,623 and total independent expenditures of $2,141,181,831 in the 2019-2020 cycle. Almost 80% of all that money came from the top 100 donors. The average citizen donates somewhere in the $50 range thinking it’s helping their candidate.
How do we undo this web of lies and money?
It is highly unlikely that the Supreme Court will reverse their decision. Egos in black robes grow old with no consideration or reflection to the average citizens on their decisions. We have to take control and it won’t be an easy task.
1) Publicly funded elections. This allows the average person (non-millionaire) to run against the millionaires because they are given the same amount to spend.
2) Empower a new, legitimate, Federal Elections Commission with public oversight. Give teeth to the body that is supposed to oversee elections and allow the people to monitor what they are doing with full disclosure throughout.
3) Strengthen disclosures. Every penny should be accounted for and transparent to the citizens as to where it came from.
4) Amend the Constitution to end corporate, union and dark money systems that have arisen since the Citizens United case.
Call to action
All of these steps will require our attention to who is running for office and active participation in asking their support for the above changes. If they promise to do these things in exchange for our vote, then vote for them. If they do not commit to these (why do you think that would be? Hmmmmm?) don’t vote for them. Stop pulling that party lever, whatever party you may support, in a system that is completely broken and corrupt.
It’s time to take back our democracy – for all of us.
This is the final article in a three-part series by Alan J. Yeck reflecting on the state of the American political system, its challenges and the far-reaching effects it can have.
We have the power to change American politics back to a system that serves the people, not the politicians. Contact your representatives and ask them to listen to these facts and national narratives.