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Nick Nyhart

Nick Nyhart

Posted: January 11, 2010 12:09 PM

Fair Elections Are the Answer to Citizens United

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The Roberts' Court may release its long-awaited decision tomorrow or Wednesday on Citizens United v. FEC. With the court's increasingly hostile attitude toward campaign spending restrictions, it's expected that the court will side with Wall Street and other wealthy interests. The decision could kick open the door to more corporate spending in elections, giving corporations free rein to fund independent expenditures for or against candidates.

The public has lost confidence in Congress's ability to pass laws in the public interest and this decision could make an untenable situation worse. Congress should respond forcefully by passing the Fair Elections Now Act (S. 752, H.R. 1826), which expands the importance of the public's voice in politics.

Support for the Fair Elections legislation in Congress is at an all time high. The bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, sponsored by Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), has bipartisan and cross-caucus support of 124 co-sponsors. The Fair Elections Now Act "would give our members the time they deserve to focus on the issues and their constituents, instead of dialing for dollars," Rep. Larson said at a Center for American Progress panel on the legislation in December. "We see a great opportunity to pass this bill, and we see Citizens United as part of that backdrop." Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is the lead sponsor of the Senate companion legislation.

The Fair Elections Now Act and similar programs in the states have repeatedly passed constitutional muster and would allow members of Congress to opt-out of the demoralizing and debilitating chase for big campaign cash.

The debates over health care, climate change, and financial industry reform are happening against the backdrop of hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions flooding campaign coffers in hopes of influencing legislation that finally crosses the President's desk. Tomorrow's decision could give corporations even more leeway in influencing these important debates.

Congress must respond to a bad decision to ensure that corporations don't fill their pockets with even more politicians. The Fair Elections Now Act is the most comprehensive and effective way to respond to this decision. Congress should take it up immediately.