Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Effects of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

There is not doubt that campaign finance plays an extremely large role in the outcome of any election. The candidate who has the most money has the advantage because they can afford to travel more places to spread their ideas than those who cannot afford to do so. As a result, there have been several attempts to regulate the influence of private funding since the use of electronics became a source of campaigning after World War Two. Here are some of the measures that the government has taken to address this issue:

  • 1971: The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) was enacted to set limits on the amount of money candidates and their families could contribute to their own campaigns.
  • 1976: The decision of Buckley v. Valeo gave the Supreme court to uphold the provisions states in FECA but negated the limits of spending by nonparty groups and individuals. 
  • 2002: The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) banned national party committees from raising small money. 
In January of 2010, Congress concluded Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission with a 5-4 majority vote that gave big corporations the freedom to speak in elections because they are protected in the First Amendment. Although it still upholds the BCRA's limits on the size of contributions, it still undermines it because the main objective of the bill was to reduce the influence that big corporations have on elections. Many Republicans were very pleased with the outcome of this bill as seen from the words of Senator Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) attorney:

Senator McConnell's attorney Floyd Abrams states that this bill is essential in maintaining the freedoms and liberties that are protected under the First Amendment. He also states that this will serve as protection for media corporations as well as all corporations so that they can participate in elections. According to the Huffington Post, this is a victory for banks on Wall Street, oil companies, and health insurance companies. 

The Democrats on the other hand, for the most part are very unhappy about the outcome of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. After President Obama heard about this he said, "With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest in our politics." Obama is far from being the only Democrat that is outraged by this decision. Senator Chuck Shumer (D-NY), was clearly not pleased of the outcome of this decision as seen in this video:

Obviously, Shumer is strongly against this decision. He both tells of how this has thwarted decades of efforts to restrict big corporations as well as foreshadow what is to come in the elections of the future. The most powerful part of his speech is when he says that the winners of the upcoming election are already determined: the big corporations. Therefore, it is likely that whoever wins the election would claim their throne because they had the most support for big corporations. Democrat Representative of the House from Kentucky John Yarmuth goes as far to claim that this bill marked the "day that democracy died":

Yarmuth expands on Shumers beliefs by envisioning how this would effect the nations voters. He said that our voters will no longer be confused of where they fall on Congress' priority list, and that would be behind the corporations who financially endorse them. He also states that this bill will help eliminate some of the partisanship that exists in this country because politicians will be more reliant on their donors as opposed to their party. It will be very interesting to see how the outcome of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission will influence both the Republican Primaries and the Presidential Election of 2012.

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