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Essay: Elections and funding

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  • Published: 23 May 2015*
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  • Words: 678 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 3 (approx)

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The Supreme Court insists that political money is equal to speech and allows unlimited amounts of unrestricted money through the Citizens United ruling proposed in January 2010 (Mark Lewis, The Atlantic Magazine, 2014). However, the flow of secret money distorts electoral processes and threatens the very basis of our democracy.
Our elections are being outsourced to special interest organizations financed by unidentified donors. Every citizen has a right to know who is behind the ads that influence their votes (Van Hollen, The Hill, 2014). According to an article written by Ilya Shapiro the editor-in-chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review, the Supreme Court asserts that the Citizens United resolution to eliminate restrictions on all forms of campaign spending will increase political speech and reduce potential political corruption. Prior to the Citizens United decision, campaign spending limits pushed money away from political candidates and toward advocacy groups. The solution is not to restrict the spending of these groups’people do not sacrifice rights by associating, whether as a union, a club, or for-profit business. The way to truly level the playing field is to remove all restrictions on campaign spending. Removing all limits and requiring disclosure would allow voters to interpret why an individual, a group, or a corporation is spending money in a political campaign (Super PACs, Shapiro, 2014).
On the other hand Bernie Sanders a Senator from Vermont and Robert Weismann the president of Public Citizen, an organization committed to consumer rights, suggest a constitutional amendment is necessary to restore democracy and overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Nothing can truly cure the problem unless Citizens United is overturned with a constitutional amendment and the Saving American Democracy Amendment in the Senate and a companion proposed in the House by Florida Representative Ted Deutch would do just that. The amendment would establish that constitutional rights belong to real people, not for-profit corporations. It would prohibit corporations from making election-related expenditures. It would clarify that Congress and states have the power to regulate campaign spending, overturning the doctrine that election contributions and expenditures constitute First Amendment-protected speech and therefore may be subject only to limited restrictions. And it would affirm that nothing in the amendment limits freedom of press (Sanders, Weissman, Super PACs, 2014).
Furthermore during a Senate hearing conducted on April 30, 2014, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens testified on the surge of secret money in politics and declared that money is not free speech. John Paul Stevens also called for a constitutional amendment to undo the Supreme Court’s equating of political with free speech. Stevens agreed with the opinion of Democrats that the Supreme Court made a big mistake in 1976 when it ruled that political spending is free speech. Stevens also stated an example of corruptive use of campaign funds used to finance the Watergate burglaries, actions that clearly were not protected by the First Amendment. Additionally Senator Angus King who chaired the hearing, pointed to new studies the Wesleyan Media Project and Center for Responsive Politics finding that in spending to date non-disclosing groups were nearly three times ahead of where they were in 2012. These non-disclosing groups accounted for two-thirds of spending by Grand Old Party groups and practically half of Democratic spending in Senate races. Republican senators at the hearing perpetuate that secrecy protects donors from retaliation and the First Amendment protection for their money is absolute.
In concurrence with John Paul Steven’s opinion that the Citizens United ruling was a mistake, Richard Hasen a distinguished professor at Loyola Law School proclaimed that the decision in Citizens United versus Federal Election Committee set back campaign finance reform. Hasen adds that the court’s decision opens the door for increased corruption and unchecked campaign spending. Therefore with all precedents carefully contemplated it is requisite to propose a constitutional amendment that will contravene the equality of speech and money in conjunction with invalidation of the Supreme Court’s adjudication of Citizens United. The amendment will then need two-third of votes in each chamber and ratification by three-quarters of the United States (All Things Considered, 2014; Hasen, Campaign Finance Reform 2011).

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