It’s time to get big money out of our elections. It’s time to overturn Citizens United.
Senator Udall (NM) and Congressman Deutch (FL-22) have introduced the Democracy For All constitutional amendment (S.J.Res. 8/H.J.Res 31) to overturn Citizens United and empower Congress and the states to set reasonable spending limits in campaigns.
In his dissent to the 2010 Citizens United decision, Justice Stevens warned, “The Court’s ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the nation.”
Every year that Citizens United is still law of the land, we see that his vision is being realized. Money in politics has become more corrosive, breaking down Congress’ ability to function and impacting every election from city council to the president.
The decision dramatically weakened over a century’s worth of reforms that responded to major scandals. Each reform aimed to help keep elections in the hands of the American people: the Tillman Act of 1907 signed by President Theodore Roosevelt after his own corporate campaign contribution scandal; the Federal Election Campaign Act, passed in the wake of Watergate; and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, enacted following the soft money scandals of the 1990s.
Big money flooding our elections is weakening our democracy and making bipartisan problem solving nearly impossible. Unlimited spending by wealthy special interests has helped create the most polarized Congress in 100 years by empowering extreme candidates, and the American people have reported historic levels of dissatisfaction with Congress. Congress recently emerged from an unpopular government shutdown after yet another round of crisis negotiations around the federal budget. This extreme gridlock over Congress’ most basic function undermines our military readiness, our research in science and medicine, and our investments in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
After Citizens United, too many Members of Congress engage in near-constant fundraising to avoid the loss of support of billionaires and preempt million-dollar attack ad assaults from super PACs.
One Member of Congress confirmed this open secret prior to the passage of the tax reform bill: “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.”
Outside spending in federal elections breaks records each cycle. In presidential elections, total outside spending jumped from $338 million in 2008, to $1.04 billion in 2012, and $1.4 billion in 2016. In Florida, the total amount spent on congressional races spiked from $6.8 million in 2008 to $88.5 million in 2016.
Across the country, unlimited funding is funneled through dark money groups and super PACs to infiltrate elections for governors, state legislatures, judicial seats, city councils, mayors, and school boards.
Citizens United also amplifies our vulnerability to foreign meddling in our elections. In the days immediately following the Citizens United decision, President Barack Obama predicted that it would “open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections.”
Over the past eight years we’ve seen that he was right.
Unlimited, untraceable money allowed by Citizens United makes it easier for foreign individuals, corporations, and governments to influence our elections. For example, the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint at the Federal Election Commission alleging that Chinese citizens routed $1.3 million through their business into a Super PAC supporting Jeb Bush in 2016. Facebook admitted that a Kremlin-connected company used fake accounts to purchase over $100,000 in ads in the 2016 election. And the FBI is investigating whether a powerful, Kremlin-connected Russian banker funneled money to the National Rifle Association as part of their reported $70 million in 2016 election spending. Yet, over a year after U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed Russia’s meddling in our election, the Federal Election Commission is paralyzed by stalemates, Congress hasn’t acted, and the White House has feverishly attempted to brush the “Russia thing” under the rug.
An overwhelming 78 percent of the American people want Citizens United overturned to stop the various forms of corruption unleashed by unlimited and anonymous money bursting through the numerous cracks in our election integrity laws. They want a Congress that works. They want a government of, by, and for the People. That is why we have sponsored the Democracy for All Amendment, to respond to the 19 states and over 750 municipalities that have already passed resolutions calling for an amendment. It’s time to restore reasonable limits on campaign spending to get big money out of our elections. We can’t do that until Citizens United is overturned.