OPINION: The Citizens United Alarmism

Daniel Verner

Listen to mainstream media, especially from the left, and they’ll say that the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United opened up the floodgates of wealthy interests and assured America’s accelerated degradation into a corporate run oligarchy. This couldn’t be further from reality. To sum the case in question succinctly, The Federal Elections Commission had blocked the advertisement of a video critical of Hillary Clinton late in the 2008 primary season. The reason for this was a part of the McCain-Feingold act that had barred the ability of nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other associations from making independent expenditures for communications in electioneering. You may recall a few years back at the State of the Union, when Barack Obama stated “Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections.” This is patently false on a few levels, which I will gladly delve into.

For one thing, campaign contributions from corporations have been illegal since the Tillman Act passed in 1947, and still remains in place today. As to his alarmism in regards to foreign money, 2 U.S.C. § 441e is still in place. The law prohibits all foreign nationals from directly or indirectly contributing to a federal candidate or political party. Also, no foreign national can make any independent political expenditures. “Foreign nationals” is defined to include not only individuals, but governments, political parties and corporations “organized…or having its principal place of business in a foreign country.”

I guess you can make the argument that Super Pacs, whose existence was not decided solely on the Citizens United precedent alone, have been a gateway to corporate influence on elections. That would also be another false perception. In a study following the 2012 election, the top 8 Super Pacs on the Republican side had received 86% of their monies from individuals. Of the over 96 million dollars in donations to these Super Pacs, NOT ONE fortune 100 company donated a cent… In fact, only 12% of private corporations donated to those 8 Super Pacs.

In my opinion, those that claim ending lobbying in regards to political campaigns, have very little ground to stand on. Proponents of campaign finance reform are myopic, in that they only notice the relatively fewer federal campaigns as compared to the thousands upon thousands of local elections. These local elections depend mainly on outworking your opponent rather than outspending them.

I should note as well, that lobbying can refer to a local Parent/Teacher group, or Union lobbyists, a fraternal organization or even a student union group at a university. In the decade of the 50’s, close to 33% of the workforce was involved in a union. Many men were members of Fraternal organizations that advocated on their member’s behalf in regards to policy.  It’s about time we start taking our civic duty seriously, stop ignoring the local elections, and make the effort to influence our local elected officials towards the betterment of our towns and cities. In no way does someone spending money hurt your ability to be a countervailing force. Simply violating someone’s economic liberty, doesn’t make your liberty any greater. In fact, it will lessen it.


Sources: http://www.wbur.org/cognoscenti/2015/01/21/campaign-finance-myths-wendy-kaminer