It has been two years since the Supreme Court issued its decision in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and we are only now just beginning to see how its overturning of a century of campaign finance law is distorting the electoral process. Rather than acting truly independently of campaigns, as the majority of justices envisioned, these entities exclusively act on behalf of individual candidates — and are typically run by former aides. Rather than encouraging the universal right of free speech, the ruling has had the effect of providing a megaphone for the rich to drown out all other voices.
That’s what’s happening in South Carolina, where a barrage of attack ads from a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich — and largely bankrolled by one wealthy supporter — has brought the former House speaker within striking distance of an upset against front-runner Mitt Romney in today’s primary. It’s a mirror image of what happened in Iowa, where a Romney super PAC hobbled Mr. Gingrich’s chances, and it’s likely a mere prelude to what will happen as the race moves next to Florida.
In Annapolis this week, activists rallied as part of a nationwide effort to reverse this tide of unaccountable special-interest money in politics. They are asking state and local officials, including Maryland’s General Assembly, to pass resolutions calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to, effectively, overrule the Supreme Court. The proposal attacks two key elements of the Citizens United decision: that corporations have the same free speech rights as individuals and that money in an electoral campaign is equivalent to speech.