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Nebraska Struggles with Money in Politics 10 Years After Citizens United

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020   

LINCOLN, Neb. -- A decade after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Citizens United decision opened the floodgates for independent campaign contributions, grassroots groups in Nebraska and across the nation still are struggling to limit the influence of money in politics.

Jack Gould, issues chairman with Common Cause Nebraska, said the ruling allowed wealthy people and corporations to speak louder and more frequently than ordinary citizens, which runs counter to the nation's democratic ideals.

"Citizens United has had a dramatic effect on elections in Nebraska," Gould said. "And it's not just contributions, it's also the fact that there are a lot of these 'dark money' groups now, and they don't have to disclose who the donors are. They don't have to tell the truth."

Citing previous decisions, the nation's high court ruled that political spending is a form of protected speech, and independent spending by unions or corporations should not be limited. The court also signaled that transparency in contributions would rein in bad players. Overturning the court's ruling would require a constitutional amendment.

According to new Public Citizen reports, corporations have spent more than half a billion dollars to influence elections - largely anonymously - since 2010, and just 25 ultra-wealthy individuals have poured $1.4 billion into super PACs.

Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, said the ruling also has sparked pushback. Nine in 10 Americans say they're disgusted by the influence of big money in politics, and three quarters support overturning Citizens United.

"The only reason this overwhelming and intense demand for reform has not yet been matched by responsive legislation and a constitutional amendment is because of the influence of this small number of super-rich people and giant corporations," Weissman said.

Since 2010, millions of Americans have signed petitions to reverse the court's decision, and more than 800 local government resolutions and 20 states have called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, Weissman said. So far, 121 members of the current Congress have co-sponsored legislation for a constitutional amendment.


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