Citizens United

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Editorials: After Citizens United, a Vicious Cycle of Corruption | Thomas B. Edsall/The New York Times

In the eight years since it was decided, Citizens United has unleashed a wave of campaign spending that by any reasonable standard is extraordinarily corrupt. To see how this operates in practice, let’s take a look at how Paul Ryan, the outgoing speaker of the House, negotiated a path — narrowly constructed to stay on the right side of the law — during a recent fund-raising trip to Las Vegas, as recounted in detail by Politico. In early May, Ryan flew to Nevada to solicit money from Sheldon Adelson — the casino magnate who was by far the largest Republican contributor of 2018 — for the Congressional Leadership Fund, an independent expenditure super PAC. Ryan was accompanied by Norm Coleman, a former Republican Senator from Minnesota. The Leadership Fund, according to its website, is “a super PAC exclusively dedicated to protecting and strengthening the Republican Majority in the House of Representatives.” It “operates independently of any federal candidate or officeholder.”

Full Article: Opinion | After Citizens United, a Vicious Cycle of Corruption - The New York Times.

Alaska: Group picks Alaska to challenge unlimited campaign donations | Associated Press

A national group is focusing on Alaska in a bid to get the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit a 2010 decision that upended how campaigns are run in this country. The court decision paved the way for corporations and unions to make unlimited independent expenditures, and in Alaska, was viewed by state officials as likely rendering several provisions of law prohibiting or limiting certain contributions unconstitutional. Washington, D.C.-based Equal Citizens wants to put that interpretation to the test but it could face an uphill battle. Equal Citizens is supporting complaints that have been filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission over contributions made in the 2016 election to independent groups that backed candidates to the Alaska Legislature. One group supported a Republican and the other leaned toward Democrats during the general election.

Full Article: Group picks Alaska to challenge unlimited campaign donations - San Francisco Chronicle.

Editorials: Scott Walker Is Proof That Campaign Finance Law Is Broken | Dan I. Weiner and Brent Ferguson/US News

On Wednesday, the Guardian broke an explosive story about how Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker sidestepped campaign finance laws to raise huge donations from corporations and wealthy individuals for his 2012 recall election. Of course, it’s not at all surprising to see a politician go after big money contributors. The way he did so, however, undermines key assumptions in the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Citizens United case, and is certainly the single strongest piece of evidence yet that the logic of that ruling is unsustainable and will have to be revisited by the court. The documents published by the Guardian indicate that Walker’s campaign committee worked closely with a group called Wisconsin Club for Growth, which was operated by one of his campaign consultants. Walker apparently held a series of meetings with wealthy businessmen just before his recall election, and emails show his fundraising team instructing him to ask for money – not for his campaign, but for the group. In March 2012, for example, Walker’s finance director sent him an email to prepare him for a meeting with the business mogul Carl Icahn, and noted that “[t]his meeting is for [Wisconsin Club for Growth] Funds.” And after a 2011 meeting with the owner of a home improvement chain, Walker emailed his campaign team to tell them “I got $1 [million] from John Menard today.” Menard’s corporation later sent a million dollar check to the Wisconsin Club for Growth.

Full Article: Scott Walker Is Proof That Campaign Finance Law Is Broken | US News Opinion.

National: Clinton pledges constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United ruling | Politico

Hillary Clinton committed Saturday to introducing a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision within her first 30 days in office, if she’s elected president. The announcement will come in a video during the closing keynote of the progressive Netroots Nation conference this afternoon, and it’s yet another attempt to adopt the positions of her vanquished primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders. “The amendment would allow Americans to establish common sense rules to protect against the undue influence of billionaires and special interests and to restore the role of average voters in elections,” a Clinton spokesman said in statement. Last fall as the primary season ramped up and Sanders gained momentum, Clinton called for the 2010 Citizens United v FEC decision, which spawned the creation of super PACS, to be overturned. She also said she wanted more stringent political spending disclosure rules, and a new public matching regime so that presidential and congressional campaigns could more easily solicit small donations.

Full Article: Clinton pledges constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United ruling - POLITICO.

Voting Blogs: Citizens United and the “Impossible Dream” | More Soft Money Hard Law

Justice Ginsburg’s recent press comments have been noted mostly for her openly expressed disdain for the Trump candidacy. Less surprising in the remarks was the Justice’s “impossible dream” that Citizens United be overturned. She has said this before, and since she dissented in that case, there is not much news here, unless anyone still had doubts that for this Justice, the killing off of that decision is a priority. The comment was reported at the same time as the Complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission by Representative Ted Lieu and others who intend to set into motion the reconsideration the Justice is hoping for. And so it invites an appraisal of its prospects for accomplishing the Justice Ginsburg’s “impossible dream.” As my colleague Marc Elias has pointed out, the FEC cannot succeed; this is a lost cause. When the Complaint fails, it may do little more than unnecessarily promote the belief that CU is here to stay. It is not clear why this is the best legal maneuver, or the most effective exercise in public communications, in the attack on Speechnow and Citizens United.

Full Article: Citizens United and the "Impossible Dream" -.

Editorials: Get Ready: The Next ‘Citizens United’ Is Coming | Carrie Levine/ Politico

Most Americans last heard from conservative lawyer Jim Bopp six years ago when he crafted a case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that won the Supreme Court’s favor and helped uncork a torrent of cash—some of it secret—that continues pouring into elections. But Bopp is back. The Terre Haute, Indiana-based attorney, who was literally laughed at by a judge when he made his first arguments in Citizens United, is now the lead lawyer in the most prominent of a series of lawsuits attempting to further destroy political contribution limits. The case, brought by the Republican Party of Louisiana, addresses restrictions on how state and local political parties use “soft money” contributions to influence federal elections. Bopp’s clients argue that if independent outside groups such as super PACs are permitted to raise and spend unlimited amounts of such money, there’s no reason why state political parties, acting independently of federal candidates, should be treated differently. Political parties are “disadvantaged” compared with super PACs, Bopp said in an interview with the Center for Public Integrity. “They want to compete, and they want to do this activity without the severe restrictions that they suffer under,” said Bopp.

Full Article: Get Ready: The Next ‘Citizens United’ Is Coming - POLITICO Magazine.

California: Voters to have a say, sort of, over Citizens United | San Francisco Chronicle

Gov. Jerry Brown cleared the way Wednesday for Californians to vote in November on whether to urge their congressional representatives to approve a constitutional amendment repealing the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns. The state Supreme Court blocked a similar ballot measure in 2014, saying it wasn’t clear whether state law allowed advisory measures on the ballot, but ruled this January that voters could consider the proposal if the Legislature approved it again. Lawmakers, voting mostly along party lines, then passed SB254 by Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, and Brown, who could have signed or vetoed the measure, said Wednesday he had allowed it to proceed toward the ballot without his signature. Opponents said the nonbinding measure was intended mainly to boost turnout among Democratic voters.

Full Article: California voters to have a say, sort of, over Citizens United - SFGate.

California: Gov. Brown to decide whether voters will sound off in November on money in politics | Los Angeles Times

Lawmakers gave final approval Friday to a November ballot measure asking voters about the growing role of undisclosed donors in political campaign. If Gov. Jerry Brown approves, the measure would ask voters on Nov. 8 whether California’s elected officials should work to overturn the controversial 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the controversial Citizens United case. “This is about trying to get the system under control,” said state Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), the author of the legislation. The Citizens United ruling in favor of a conservative nonprofit group opened the door to unlimited spending by corporations and unions in federal candidate campaigns. Much of that spending is done by nonprofit organizations that, under IRS rules, do not have to disclose their donors.

Full Article: Gov. Brown to decide whether California voters will sound off in November on money in politics - LA Times.

National: 1,240 arrested in past week as “Democracy Spring” movement against money in politics spreads throughout U.S. | Salon

It was one of the most massive acts of civil disobedience in recent U.S. history. Over the past week, well over 1,000 people were arrested in an enormous sit-in protest at the U.S. Capitol. The demonstration is part of a new movement that calls itself “Democracy Spring.” Activists are calling for ending the chokehold money has on U.S. politics, overturning Citizens United and restoring voting rights. On April 2, activists launched a colossal 10-day, 140-mile march from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. This was the preface to the mass arrests. At least 1,240 protesters were arrested in the week from Monday, April 11 to Monday, April 18, according to police, on charges of crowding, obstructing or incommoding. Some activists even tied themselves to scaffolding in the Capitol rotunda.

Full Article: 1,240 arrested in past week as “Democracy Spring” movement against money in politics spreads throughout U.S. - Salon.com.

National: Why Thousands of Americans Are Lining Up to Get Arrested in D.C. | Rolling Stone

Chanting, “Money ain’t speech, corporations aren’t people!” and “We are the 99 percent!” around 425 protesters were arrested Monday in a mass sit-in on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., and more have returned to face arrest Tuesday. The demonstration, called Democracy Spring, is advocating a set of reforms the organizers have dubbed the “democracy movement,” demanding Congress amend campaign finance laws and restore the Voting Rights Act, among other actions. For about five hours under the windy shadow of the looming Rotunda, at least eight police buses roll across the sandstone Capitol plaza to haul away the last of the peaceful protesters, where participants — some costumed in green dollar-bill suits and Lady Liberty garb — have overwhelmed a Capitol Police processing center, sending protesters to a nearby overflow facility. Police records suggest Monday was the largest spate of mass arrests in at least a decade at the U.S. Capitol, and close observers of Washington activism say it may have been the largest since the Vietnam War.

Full Article: Why Thousands of Americans Are Lining Up to Get Arrested in D.C. | Rolling Stone.

National: Democracy Spring Sit-In Protest Brings Hundreds To Capitol Steps | NPR

Police needed most of Monday afternoon to arrest all of the sit-down protesters outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington at a demonstration in favor of changing the rules on political money, voting rights and redistricting. More than 600 turned out for the protest, and more than 400 were arrested in the sit-in at the Capitol steps, U.S. Capitol Police reported. The nonviolent protest was led by Democracy Spring, a coalition of more than 100 progressive groups. The protest was cheery and peaceful. Police blockaded the marble staircase with a chain and a cordon of officers. Demonstrators sat in front of the chain and on the plaza, talking, chanting, singing and taking pictures as police led them away one by one. Police, badly underestimating the potential crowd, initially brought a single bus to Capitol Plaza to haul the protesters away.

Full Article: Democracy Spring Sit-In Protest Brings Hundreds To Capitol Steps : The Two-Way : NPR.

Voting Blogs: One FEC Commissioner’s Answer to Citizens United | More Soft Money Hard Law

FEC Commissioner Weintraub believes that she has hit upon a regulatory maneuver to stop publicly traded corporations from making independent expenditures, or unlimited contributions to independent expenditure committees.  At a time when newspaper editorialists carry on with attacks on the Commission as “worse than useless,” the Commissioner seems determined to prod the FEC to face the major “money in politics” issues of the day. This is her theory: foreign nationals cannot make contributions or independent expenditures, which means that the FEC could establish that no corporation with foreign nationals as shareholders could engage in this political spending.  The rule would not bring about this result outright: it would require a corporation to “certify” that it was not making contributions or independent expenditures with these funds.  As a practical matter, corporations with foreign national shareholders could not risk making the certification and would forgo this political spending.  The Commissioner plans to direct lawyers to produce proposals that she and her colleagues can consider in a future rulemaking.

Full Article: One FEC Commissioner's Answer to Citizens United -.

National: After Citizens United Got Halfway There, This Lawsuit Aims To Finish The Job | International Business Times

A case now working its way through federal court has the potential to fully dismantle the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law of 2002, finishing the job the Supreme Court started when its 2010 Citizens United decision loosed a tidal wave of outside money on the American electoral system. That case, Republican Party of Louisiana v. FEC, is currently before the District Court for the District of Columbia, but it could be on its way up to the Supreme Court. On Friday, three campaign reform groups filed a joint amicus brief warning of “extraordinarily far-reaching negative consequences” if the district court rules in favor of the plaintiffs. “The return to the era of soft money would be complete,” wrote attorneys representing the Campaign Legal Center, Democracy 21 and Public Citizen in the brief. “Soft money” is a colloquial term for the unregulated contributions that political parties could legally collect prior to the passage of the McCain-Feingold bill. Although there continue to be strict limits on how much individual donors can give to particular campaigns, before 2002 there was no cap on the amount that could be given to a party for general purposes. Parties would use their virtually unlimited soft money to produce “issue ads,” including attack ads, that were ostensibly not connected to particular campaigns.

Full Article: After Citizens United Got Halfway There, This Lawsuit Aims To Finish The Job.

National: How Citizens United Made It Easier For Bosses To Control Their Workers’ Votes | International Business Times

The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision is most famous for the torrent of outside ad spending it unleashed on the American election system. But the ruling did more than just lift caps on outside political expenditures; it also gave corporations more leverage over the political behavior of their employees. Citizens United eliminated restrictions on the ability of employers to lobby their workers in support of particular candidates and causes. Bosses can even make employees attend partisan political events during work hours. In addition to now being legal, those tactics are also effective, according to new research by Paul Secunda, a law professor at Marquette University, and Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, a doctoral candidate in government and social policy at Harvard. A survey they conducted for an upcoming UCLA Law Review paper found that workers are generally responsive to political pressure from their managers.

Full Article: How Citizens United Made It Easier For Bosses To Control Their Workers’ Votes.

Editorials: How to Reverse Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission | The Atlantic

New supreme court opinions have been as controversial as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the 2010 decision that struck down limits on corporations’ campaign expenditures, finding them to be an abridgment of free speech. Like most of the Court’s recent campaign-finance rulings, the case was decided 5–4, with Justice Antonin Scalia in the majority. Even before Scalia’s death, Citizens United featured significantly in the presidential primaries. Bernie Sanders had made its negation, through a constitutional amendment, a key goal of—and rationale for—his candidacy. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton had condemned the existing campaign-finance system, and Clinton had vowed to appoint “Supreme Court justices who value the right to vote over the right of billionaires to buy elections.” Now, with a new justice in the offing, the prospect of reversing Citizens United, among other Roberts Court decisions, seems suddenly larger, more plausible: For campaign-finance-reform proponents, the brass ring seems within reach. But the matter is not so simple. Even if Scalia is replaced by a more liberal justice, the Court’s campaign-finance rules will not be easily reversed. The precedents extending First Amendment protection to campaign spending date back to 1976, long before Scalia became a judge. The Court generally follows precedent, and overrules past decisions only rarely, even as justices come and go. A new justice will not be sufficient.

Full Article: How to Reverse Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission - The Atlantic.

Editorials: Money can’t buy Jeb Bush the White House, but it still skews politics | Rick Hasen/The Washington Post

It is easy to dismiss as overblown the concern about the outsize role of ultra-rich donors in the American political scene. Exhibit 1: Jeb Bush. Bush’s $100 million in super PAC fundraising was supposed to be part of a shock-and-awe campaign that would scare away competitors and give him a smooth path to the Republican presidential nomination. Well, it hasn’t worked out that way. Bush has been polling toward the bottom in the Republican race despite the war chest, and Donald Trump, who has spent little on his campaign despite his billionaire status, has been on top. “Hurrah for Citizens United ,” Politico’s Jack Shafer wrote in one representative piece. He asserted that worries about the 2010 Supreme Court ruling have been proved wrong. “Expectations that big money would float the best-financed candidate directly to the White House have yet to materialize this campaign season.” But this overly simplistic analysis misses the key role of money in contemporary American politics. In spite of the rhetoric of some campaign reformers, money doesn’t buy elections. Instead, it increases the odds of electoral victory and of getting one’s way on policies, tax breaks and government contracts. And the presidential race is the place we are least likely to see money’s effects. Looking to Congress and the states, though, we can see that the era of big money unleashed by the Supreme Court is hurtling us toward a plutocracy in which the people with the greatest economic power can wield great political power through campaign donations and lobbying.

Full Article: Money can’t buy Jeb Bush the White House, but it still skews politics - The Washington Post.

Editorials: 6 Years of Citizens United | Zephyr Teachout/Huffington Post

Six years ago today, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Citizens United vs. FEC. It is not a happy anniversary. I remember waiting for the ruling and opening it up on my computer: when I finally read it, I didn’t want to believe that the Court had gone as far as it had and been so careless with our democracy. Citizens United was bad history, bad logic, bad law. It was a major overreach on the part of the Court (the issue hadn’t even been raised initially). In his majority decision that day, Justice Kennedy allowed billionaires and big corporations to spend limitless amounts of money to influence politicians. His description of politics was pretty out of touch. Basically, the Court held that unless there is an explicit, open deal — “here’s $5 million for a vote against banking reform” — there’s no corruption. Nobody with any common sense thinks that huge corporate expenditures don’t corrupt politics, but the Court left common sense behind that day. One good thing came out of it: it has led to an extraordinary, community-by-community grassroots effort to reclaim our democracy.

Full Article: 6 Years of Citizens United.

Editorials: The Future of Campaign Finance Rests with the Next Supreme Court Appointments | Lawrence Norden/The Atlantic

For the last 10 years, the Supreme Court has engaged in a systematic effort to transform American democracy. Steered by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court loosened restrictions on political advertising by corporations and unions, gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, upheld the rights of states to enact restrictive voting laws, and, in the words of Justice Stephen Breyer, “eviscerate[d] our Nation’s campaign-finance laws.” This year, the Court will decide a voting and redistricting case that could change the lines of virtually every state legislative district in the country. There is no area of the law the Roberts Court has more thoroughly transformed. Almost all of the Court’s major election cases were decided by a 5-4 vote. Of course, on the Court, the majority rules. But it would not take a constitutional amendment or a revolution in legal scholarship to bring this string of decisions to an end. It is extremely likely that the next president will have the opportunity to replace at least one (and very likely more than one) Supreme Court justice, as the previous five presidents have done. One new justice on the Court might be enough to push the law in the opposite direction.

Full Article: The Future of Campaign Finance Rests with the Next Supreme Court Appointments - The Atlantic.

California: State court grants right of voters to weigh in on Citizens United | San Francisco Chronicle

The state Supreme Court cleared the way Monday for Californians to vote in November, if the Legislature approves, on whether to urge Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution and overturn the Citizens United ruling, which allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns. The state justices had blocked a vote on the same measure initiated by the Legislature in 2014, saying it was not clear that California lawmakers had the power to put an advisory measure on the ballot. But in a 6-1 ruling Monday, the court said the Legislature’s power to “investigate” issues includes asking the public for advice on whether to seek a nationwide constitutional amendment.

Full Article: State court grants right of voters to weigh in on Citizens United - SFGate.

Michigan: “Citizens United” bill latest in long line of elections proposals riling Democrats | Michigan Radio

The Michigan Senate has approved campaign finance legislation that would write the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling into state law. The court ruled that the First Amendment allows unrestricted independent political spending by outside groups. Democrats say the bill not only codifies “Citizens United” – it expands it. “This bill firmly points Michigan in the wrong direction towards a future of dark money and convoluted electoral processes,” said state Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, in an uncharacteristically impassioned speech on the Senate floor.

Full Article: “Citizens United” bill latest in long line of elections proposals riling Michigan Democrats | Michigan Radio.