Supreme Court's Citizens United Decision Turns Ten
Friday, January 17, 2020
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Corporations and trade associations have poured almost a billion dollars, by some estimates, into American elections since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Citizens United decision - ten years ago next Tuesday.
The court decision freed companies to make unlimited political donations without declaring the true sources of what's come to be known as "dark money." Robert Weissman, president of the good-government watchdog group Public Citizen, says that has led to a system rigged to benefit the super-rich.
"The top 25 donors are responsible for nearly half of all the individual contributions that have gone to super PACs since the Citizens United decision," says Weissman. "So, we really are looking at an oligarchic situation."
Weissman says that means that issues that enjoy wide public support - like bills to prevent gun violence, lower prescription drug prices or fight climate change - have languished in Congress, as many lawmakers depend on funds from the gun lobby, and drug and energy companies.
Supporters of the decision say it allows all corporations to have a voice in the political process, not just the ones with media empires.
Senate Democrats have introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. And the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed the "For the People Act" to reform the rules on political donations.
But Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to allow a vote, calling the bills a ploy to get more Democrats elected. Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes - D-Baltimore - says the House bill would be shot in the arm for democracy.
"It requires disclosure of where dark money is coming from," says Sarbanes. "It puts a cop on the beat by strengthening the Federal Election Commission. It puts new rules in place with respect to lobbyists and super PACs, and other measures."
The bill also would reform the campaign finance system, allowing candidates to get matching funds for small-donor donations, thus diluting the influence of special interests.
In 2018, California passed the Disclose Act, which requires ads from independent political committees to prominently display their primary funders.
get more stories like this via email
College presidents testified before a congressional committee Tuesday on the rise of antisemitism on college campuses since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led …
There are some bright spots in beefing up local news coverage, but a new report says in North Dakota and elsewhere, there are still big concerns …
Health and Wellness
Holiday stress is a concern for most people, but when you mix in travel plans and chronic health issues, those worries might be elevated. A …
A new report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau finds the repayment process for federal student loans has been filled with errors…
More than 3,500 foster children are available for adoption in Ohio, and state agencies are connecting with local faith congregations to help recruit …
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife just announced a marine warden discovered an endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle dead, drowned …
Health and Wellness
The state's largest county has just opened the new CARE Court system, designed to get help for severely mentally ill people in Los Angeles. CARE …
A Knoxville-based environmental group is voicing health and safety concerns about the development of a landfill for radioactive waste from the Y12 Ura…