As we observe Independence Day, we are reminded of the importance of the democratic process and the power of each person’s vote in shaping our common life. Yet over the past several years, we have seen the democratic process undermined by laws and court rulings which have expanded the influence of corporation in election campaigns.
At a cost of over $4 billion, the 2010 midterm elections were the most expensive ever. We are well on our way to seeing that amount surpassed by far in this year’s election cycle. The January 2010 ruling of the Supreme Court in the Citizens United v. FEC case opened the floodgates for campaign spending in election campaigns. The Court ruled that private businesses – including for-profit corporations – have a right to spend an unlimited amount of money to support or defeat candidates. Rather than pursuing public policy that serves the common good, candidates are forced to chase money.
No matter what issues you care about or where you are on the political spectrum, campaign financing has a fundamental influence on the public policy process, impacting who is at the table when policy decisions are made and in whose interests those decisions are made.
In the wake of the Citizens United decision, elected officials and anyone running for office will be under enormous pressure to support corporate interests. As a result, it will be much harder to advance a public interest agenda on any issue involving corporate interests and potential profits – whether the issue is environmental protection, health and safety standards, worker rights or consumer protections.
There are now several measures before Congress calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling. In addition, well over 250 state legislatures and municipalities have passed resolutions in support of overturning the Citizens United ruling.
In these challenging times, we cannot afford an election season dominated by the voices of special interests. We need elected officials who are accountable to everyday voters. It is a moral imperative that we reclaim the political process for all the people, not just those with the power of money on their side.
As we celebrate the democratic process this Fourth of July, contact your members of Congress and urge them to support the effort to move a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling.