In a decisive move bound to bring a huge sigh of relief to all but the top 1% of Americans, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has announced she will be introducing a constitutional amendment to overturn the despised Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, making our politicians accountable to the voters once again and cleansing our political system of the corrupting influence of dark money and Super PACs.
Speaking at the progressive gathering at Netroots, Clinton also announced the institution of an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose campaign contributions, in addition, she would have the Securities and Exchange Commission force all publicly traded companies to disclose political contributions to their stockholders.
The 2010 Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission decision from a conservative-controlled Court mandated that the government’s restrictions on campaign financing was “unconstitutional” because the act of giving money was an expression of one’s right to free speech. Crucially, this also meant that multinational corporations and unions’ right to make political contributions was protected under the First Amendment even though they are ethereal constructs given form by their shareholders/union members.
When combined with a lower court decision that established the Super Political Action Committee (or “Super PAC”) in the SpeechNow.org v. FEC ruling, you have the utter mess we’re in today, where billionaires and corporations pour millions of dollars into shadowy organizations to pay for attack ads and fill the war chests of candidates. Republican lawmakers have then taken it upon themselves to entrench their power by passing heinous “voter ID” laws that make it more difficult for traditionally Democratic voters like young people and minorities to vote, gerrymandering districts, and passing an immediate wave of union-crushing “right-to-work” laws and other attacks on organized labor by Republican governors across the Midwest on behalf of their corporate benefactors.
The results speak for themselves. Candidates and their supporting interests in the 2008 presidential campaign spent $5.3 billion – and that figure jumped to a staggering $7 billion dollars. This election is expected to match or exceed that. The differences can be easily seen in our current Republican-strangulated Congress, where our legislators have turned to sellvotes that ignore the demands and the wellbeing of the constituents they ostensibly represent in favor of the idle whims of the oligarchs that fund them.
Getting this amendment through won’t be easy, however. The amendment must be approved by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate, and then ratified by three-quarters of the states – and it’s hard to imagine that greedy Republicans and even some Democrats who have gotten too comfy are going to want to get off the gravy train. But it’s a huge symbolic step and hopefully a sign that former Secretary of State Clinton is committed to restoring integrity to our democracy and putting an end to this absurd circus of corruption.
For a quick recap, here’s Francesca Fiorentini of AJ+ explaining how dark money works under Citizens United:
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.