Score One For We The People

Today We The People had a victory.  Oh, to be sure, it was a small victory and only a baby step at that, but a victory, nonetheless.  I hope that more steps in this direction will soon follow.

The issue?  Citizens United.  First, a brief explanation of Citizens United, for those who may not be quite clear on what it is.

Citizens United is a conservative political advocacy organization, founded in 1988, whose stated mission is to “reassert the traditional American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise, strong families, and national sovereignty and security.”  Sounds harmless enough, right?

What they actually do, using donations from wealthy republican supporters, is create and produce advertisements and documentary films critical of republican opponents, primarily democratic candidates, but also certain media outlets, such as Mother Jones, and in 2016, they produced a film critical of the United Nations.

iaauw'In 2016, Citizens United president David Bossie, a long-time friend of Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, took leave to become Trump’s deputy campaign manager.  As such, he made personal and television appearances and produced ads mainly unfavourable to Hillary Clinton.

we the corporationsBut the real impact of Citizens United came from their lawsuit in 2009-2010, Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (FEC).  To make a very long story short, in that case the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that that the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for communications by nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other associations.  In other words, there are no limits to what any business, individual, union, PAC or other organization can contribute to a political campaign.  It is the ruling that opened the door for such organizations as the NRA to put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the pockets of members of Congress. So, if you’ve got the money, you can basically buy a candidate.

Now, fast forward to today.  The State of New York has a requirement that nonprofits must disclose their donors each year.  Citizens United challenged that law, claiming it violated the First Amendment, and that to disclose the names  of donors would inhibit some, who wished to remain anonymous, from donating.  Today, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan rejected those claims. Circuit Judge Rosemary Pooler said New York has important interests in stopping fraud and abuse by charities, and requiring them to disclose names, addresses and contributions of their largest donors makes enforcement easier.

Okay, granted it may not seem like much of a win, but I think it is the first step on a path to greater transparency in political campaign funding.  The ultimate goal, of course, should be to severely limit campaign funding, for when a company, say a coal company, can spend unlimited amounts of money to fund the republican candidate’s political campaign, then that company no doubt expects something in return.  We are seeing that today, with the fossil fuel industry having contributed heavily to, not only Donald Trump, but also certain pliable members of Congress, and now those who received the benefit are providing the payback.

Michael Boos, one of the attorneys for Citizens United, has indicated that they will be considering an appeal to today’s ruling.

On March 27, 2002, President George W. Bush signed into law a bill, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, aka BCRA, aka McCain–Feingold Act, that regulated the financing of political campaigns.

I generally give the U.S. Supreme Court a thumbs-up for their diligence, their sense of fairness and non-partisan decision-making.  However, the case of Citizens United v Federal Election Committee is the exception, for I believe they made a grievous error in allowing unlimited donations to political campaigns.  I hope that today’s decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court is upheld, and that it is merely the first step toward implementing common-sense rules over campaign financing.  Every November, we each put on our patriotic hats and go to the polls to vote according to our beliefs and our consciences.  But, in recent years, our elections have been tampered in many ways, and by many nefarious players, not the least of which are those whose corporate greed far outweighs any consideration for We The Pople.  It is time for that to change.

26 thoughts on “Score One For We The People

  1. Jill, the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions did more to set back our democratic election process than even the Russians? Why? Because without the disclosure any person or group with money can tilt an election, including those that mask Russian money,

    The term “dark money” as a descriptor is entirely apt. Getting these funders to reveal themselves is entirely appropriate. I personally would like to shut them down and we each contribute to a shorter election process. If that doesn’t work, then like golfers, legislators need to put their sponsors on their suits. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • I fully agree. There is something sneaky and dishonest seeming about donors who contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars but don’t want to be identified. What are they buying? Power. And who sufferes? Us. I think there should be an equal playing field, for as it stands now, whoever gets the most contributions is most likely to win. It should not be that way, and at the end of the day, our elected representatives don’t feel responsible to we who voted them into office, but rather to those anonymous donors.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Jill,

    All the small victories count. So far the judiciary branch of our government has been the best check on the likes of the president and his fellow republicans from wanting to attack all the pillars of our US democracy, whichever ones are a check on power run amok.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great news, Jill! I really, really, really wish that democratic elections everywhere had very strict, small limits of spending by candidates and the party. Then maybe We The People wouldn’t have to suffer through the horrendous attack ads on TV and everywhere else. Televised debates and door-to-door campaigning, period. Dream on…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Since your We the People don your patriotic hats to go to the polls to vote for those you wish to govern you, it might be worth asking those touting for your votes where their pledge of allegiance lies, with the United States or with the NRA. If the former I suggest you ask for a firm campaign promise that they’ll vote for an amendment that makes it crystal clear where politicians get their contributions from and maybe set a reasonable upper limit of $5000 which won”t buy a politician but might buy your vote. Ask how they feel about creating new laws about banning sales of assault rifles and setting out new safety rules for buying a weapon, a more thorough background check. You have to make sure they know that this time round your vote goes to those who promise We the People and the safety of our children matters.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It happens that I am currently doing some research on who is and isn’t receiving contributions from the NRA and it turns out that almost every republican is and not a single democrat is. Tell you something? I’ve only just begun, but I think it will make for some interesting reading. You are right, we need to be able to get a promise from the candidate of our choice, and then more importantly, we need to be able to hold him accountable for keeping that promise. Problem is, the nation is currently so polarized that nobody can agree on anything. Bipartisanship in the hallowed halls of Congress is very nearly non-existent today, and that has to change before anything sensible can happen. Plus, of course, we need a leader with an ounce of sense.
      xxx Cwtch xxx

      Liked by 2 people

  5. That’s great. I worked with a lawyer for 17+ years administering several smaller charitable foundations, and the 990-PF tax form that I filed for each kept including more and more questions about unethical behaviour and had one done business with crooks? etc. as that became more common and loopholes were used widely. At the same time my elderly boss, a lifelong Republican married to Teddy Roosevelt’s granddaughter, got more and more dubious solicitations in the mail that I dealt with. He was targeted by age, previous contributions, income level, and the fact that he had any Republican leanings at all. I am glad that someone somewhere is trying to put a stop to the corruption of politics and non-persons etc.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It seems that the more technologically advanced we become, the more opportunities the scammers find to rob us, and it makes me angry that they particularly target the elderly. Lately I have been getting calls from all over the country telling me that I am wanted on five different warrants and will be arrested if I don’t call them back at xxx-xxxx number. And the corruption in government is beyond belief. Campaign finance is an industry in itself, and I hope we are moving in the direction of reining it in. It is ridiculous the amount of money that filters to individual candidates from the PACs and large corporations, not to mention the wealthy donors such as Betsy DeVos’ family.

      Liked by 1 person

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