Saturday marked the second anniversary of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision. This decision allows corporations to use their general treasury funds to pay for political advertisements that expressly call for the defeat or election of a candidate.
The ruling also means corporations can donate large amounts of money--even up to the last day of an election--and it has dramatically increased corporate money's influence in our political process.
By a 5-4 decision, the largely conservative court rejected a 63-year-old ban on use of direct corporate money in federal elections and reversed 20 years of precedent supporting this ban. As dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, "The Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense."
It's no surprise then that corporate money has flooded our elections. Super PACs have been formed that can legally raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations, and other groups and spend that money on political messages. Between the 2008 and 2010 elections, spending by independent groups, including corporations, increased approximately 130% from $119.9 million to $280 million, according to the Campaign Finance Institute. Almost 80 super PACs spent more than $60 million calling for election or defeat of federal candidates. Keep in mind that Super PACs weren't even formed until the summer of 2010 and it wasn't even a presidential election year.
In fact, OpenSecrets.org reports that just since the GOP presidential primaries have begun, 12 super PACs operated by supporters of a specific presidential candidate have spent more than $22 million on ads and other expenditures.
Corporate money in politics is one of the biggest threats to our democracy. For these reasons, I introduced the Get Corporate Money out of Politics Constitutional Amendment (H. J. RES. 92). The bill reaffirms the importance of a level playing field and authorizes Congress and the States to regulate election contributions of for-profit corporations. While protecting the freedom of the press, the Get Corporate Money out of Politics Amendment clearly states that corporations are not people. They do not vote, they do not serve in office, and they should not be able to buy our elections.