The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, issued two years ago this week, is wreaking havoc on the 2012 elections. When the Roberts Court decided to strike down the ban on corporate expenditures in campaigns, the five justices who issued the opinion surely had no idea their misguided decision would cause such enormous damage to our political system. Meanwhile, the rest of us are living with the destructive consequences of their ruling.
These consequences include:
• Corporations are free to spend, or give to third-party outside groups to spend, as much as they want to influence federal elections.
• Hundreds of millions of dollars in secret contributions are being spent in federal elections by tax-exempt groups that are not disclosing the donors who are financing their campaign-related expenditures.
• Candidate-specific super PACs are serving as vehicles to circumvent and eviscerate the limits on contributions to candidates set to prevent corruption. They also offer some wealthy donors undue influence over elections.
• Other super PACs, supporting the election of multiple federal candidates, are spending unlimited contributions, given by influence-seeking, special interest donors.
As a result of these developments, secret money and huge contributions are being injected into federal elections in ways and amounts not seen since the Watergate scandals. History demonstrates that such money leads to corruption and scandal. The candidate-specific super PACs now propelling the presidential elections are by far the most dangerous vehicles for potential corruption in U.S. politics today. These PACs allow donors to buy influence with candidates by funneling huge contributions through the PACs to directly support the candidates’ campaigns.
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