It’s been five years since the Supreme Court lifted restrictions on how much money corporations and unions could spend putting their favorite candidates in office. The result, according to eight of the nation’s largest government watchdog groups, is that regular Americans are losing their voice in democracy while a “tiny number” of wealthy individuals have gained record influence. In the 2010 Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case, the Court ruled that corporations and unions were entitled to same first amendment rights to free speech as private citizens as long as they are working independent of the campaigns. The Washington D.C.-based watchdog Public Citizen suggests in a new report, however, that the very groups claiming to be independent in the wake of the Court’s decision are often closely aligned with a single candidate.
“Special interests are hijacking our elections,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch program. “All this newly allowed money wasn’t supposed to be corrupting, wasn’t supposed to be connected to candidates, and it is.”
Public Citizen studied the 2014 election cycle funds and how the money moved through the nation’s largest Super PACs — a type of political action committee created in 2010 that may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, or individuals and spend unlimited sums on campaigns. Of those groups spending at least $100,000 in the recent elections, 45 percent devoted all their resources to helping a single candidate.