Money has always played a role in politics, but the abuse of money has been exacerbated with the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission, which [opened] the floodgates for massive spending on electoral campaigns with effects that have already skewed the political process.
Take, for example, the recent House race in South Carolina. Republican candidate Mark Sanford, the one who admitted to cheating on his now ex-wife Jenny, did not receive any funding from the National Republican Congressional Committee. However, he was still able to win 54 percent of the vote over Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch even though the latter had $425,000 of ads from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and had led in several pre-election polls. Sanford won because money from Super PACs and other special interests poured into ads attacking Colbert Busch.
Citizens United rules that since corporations and other special interests are legally “people,” they are entitled to the same First Amendment right to free speech as individuals like you and me. It also ruled that since money is equal to speech, then these special interests have the ability to donate unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns via Super PACs, organizations that run advertisements for or against candidates or ballot measures but are forbidden from donating money directly to campaigns.
These Super PACs are harmful to our democracy. On one hand, this system requires politicians to be either very wealthy or well-connected to run for office. On the other hand, once elected, politicians begin to respond to their wealthy backers, not to the people that they should represent. Thus, politicians begin to pass laws and perform other actions that harm the public interest. These include obstructing efforts to curb global warming, passing higher interest rates on student loans and working against laws intended to reform election spending.
We are already beginning to see the effects of Citizens United. The eternal deadlock in Congress is a manifestation of this disastrous decision, as Congresspeople refuse to compromise on their issues — because they have been paid big money to advance causes that help the special interests. This deadlock has already resulted in the dreaded sequester, and I don’t know about you, but I hope that we don’t have to go through another one.
Today, ASUCD will debate a resolution stating its opposition to Citizens United. This is part of a nationwide campaign whose ultimate goal is a Constitutional Amendment to reverse the effects of Citizens United. If you want to reclaim democracy, if you want to tell your children that they can someday become president, if you want a Congress that actually passes laws rather than blocking them, contact your ASUCD senators and urge them to approve this resolution. The fate of our democracy depends on it.
First-year atmospheric science major