Though the manifold problems of money pouring into our campaigns have become a source of daily news and mounting public backlash, the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission is an opportunity to review how this transformative decision was reached — the perfect storm of politicized jurisprudence, corporate entitlement, and a narrowly tilted bench. As Chief Justice John Roberts has expressed such concern over corporate rights, one might think he was found as a boy abandoned, taken in, and raised by some corporations. It was Roberts who directed the narrow issue of FEC penalties over ads for Hillary: The Movie to be rewritten and re-argued as a much broader debate over the right for corporations to spend money freely on third party advertisements.
The murky reasoning in the 5-4 decision is a swirl of citations to numerous codes that apparently somehow offer sufficient paradox that a century of laws passed by lawmakers over generations of Congress that restrictions on the federal and state level had to be knocked down, leaving almost no sense of legal authority on the subject.
How has this decision stood, two years later? Well, people have literally been taking to the streets across the country in outrage over this decision and corporate influence on public policy. In fact, this decidedly undemocratic ruling — five opinions against American law and overwhelming public opinion — has been such a galvanizing injection into the populace, Citizens United vs. FEC may prove to be the birth to an era of reform.
When Thomas Jefferson warned, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance,” he probably wasn’t talking about the liberty of businesses to spend unlimited amounts to promote their interests in elections, particularly foreign businesses.