The Supreme Court decided in late January that giant corporations should be treated just like individual Americans when it comes to spending money in elections. Their ruling in the Citizens United case - which overturned decades of campaign finance legislation and previous court rulings - means that a company like ExxonMobil can spend an unlimited amount on attack ads, direct mail, and robocalls to support politicians who serve its interests and defeat those who stand in its way. The Court had its say, but now the American people are speaking.
People For the American Way has just released the results of a new national poll on Citizens United and the many ways in which Congress - and the American people - can undo the damage, culminating with an amendment to the Constitution.
Above all else, the poll shows that the Supreme Court is far out of step with popular opinion. Americans of all political stripes - including a majority of Republicans and conservatives - believe that corporations have too much influence in elections and should be limited by Congress in how much they can spend to support or oppose candidates. This isn't just a liberal or Democratic position - it's the American position, shared by majorities across the spectrum. Republican leaders who have rejoiced at the prospect of more corporate money in elections should take heed.
Specifically, our poll found that:
- 78% believe that corporations should be limited in how much they can spend to influence elections, and 70% believe they already have too much influence over elections
- 73% believe Congress should be able to impose such limits, and 61% believe Congress has done too little in the past to limit corporate influence over elections
Support was equally high for reforms that would blunt, or entirely undo, the Citizens United ruling. For instance, we found that:
- 82% support limits on electioneering by government contractors, and 87% support limits on bailout recipients
- 85% support a complete ban on electioneering by foreign corporations
- 75% believe that a publicly traded company should get shareholder approval before spending money in an election
Democrats in Congress should act on the overwhelming public sentiment against Citizens United and pass meaningful reforms in time for the fall election. But it's going to take more than a legislative patch to fully mend the damage done by Citizens United. In fact, since the court struck down limits on corporate spending in elections on constitutional grounds, Congress is very limited in what it can do without running afoul of the court. Ultimately a constitutional amendment or a new Supreme Court ruling will be required. That's why we're encouraged that:
- Of the over 60% of Americans who have an opinion on a constitutional amendment to fix Citizens United, supports runs greater than 2 to 1
- 69% think that the President, in the event of a Supreme Court vacancy, should nominate a Justice who supports limits on corporate spending in elections
People For the American Way has launched a campaign to amend the constitution and is working to ensure that future Supreme Court Justices do not put corporate interests about those of the American people. We hope you'll join us.
You can find the full results of our poll, which was conducted by SurveyUSA, here.