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What is Citizens United? Why is there concern? Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission On January 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court unleashed a flood.

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Presentation on theme: "What is Citizens United? Why is there concern? Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission On January 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court unleashed a flood."— Presentation transcript:

1 What is Citizens United? Why is there concern? Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission On January 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court unleashed a flood of corporate money into our political system by ruling that, Corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts of money to promote or defeat candidates. Contrary to longstanding precedents Established that money is speech The decision in this historic case – Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission – Overturned a century of campaign finance law Stands to deal a devastating blow to our democracy unless we act.

2 The Issue: Citizens United, allows unlimited, undisclosed money via entities of unions, corporations, and non-profits: It maintains that entity expenditures cannot corrupt elected officials, that influence over lawmakers is not corruption, and that the appearance of influence will not undermine public faith in our democracy. i.e, allows politicians to be bought by the highest entity bidder. rules that money is speech (replacing democracy by plutocracy – undisclosed entities with the most money buy and rule our government via control of campaign financing and media influence).

3 “Free” Speech is not protected when it is determined by how much money you can contribute to influence a campaign, and entities are declared to be ‘people’ “Free” Speech for individual is capped at $2,500 for contribution to campaign and disclosed. “Free” Speech contribution to super PAC (political action campaign) by entity or individual is unlimited and undisclosed

4 Candidates and traditional candidate committees can accept $2,500 from individuals per election. That means they can take in $5,000 a year - half in the primary, and half in the general election. Candidates and traditional candidate committees are prohibited from accepting money from corporations, unions and associations. Federal election code prohibits those entities from contributing directly to candidates or candidate committees. Super PACs, though, have no limitations on who contributes (undisclosed) or how much they contribute. They can raise as much money from corporations, unions and associations as they please and spend unlimited amounts on advocating for the election or defeat of the candidates of their choice. $$$$$Campaign Financing & Super PACs$$$$$ SUPER MONEY = SUPER POWER versus your citizen power

5 Why are super PACs so controversial? Critics who believe money corrupts the political process say the court rulings and creation of super PACs opened the floodgates to widespread corruption. In 2012, U.S. Sen. John McCain warned: "I guarantee there will be a scandal, there is too much money washing around politics, and it’s making the campaigns irrelevant." McCain and other critics said the rulings allowed wealthy corporations and union to have an unfair advantage in electing candidates to federal office. In writing his dissenting opinion for the Supreme Court, Justice John Paul Stevens opined of the majority: "At bottom, 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."Justice John Paul Stevens

6 Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court has violated: The Sovereignty of the American people over their government The Constitution First Amendment right given to entities No where in the Constitution does is it declare that money is speech or that entities (corporations, unions, non-profits) are people Congress’ denied power to regulate the manner of elections States rights - over ruled without explanation Precedent of prior historical court rulings

7 Sovereignty We should also be sovereign over everything the government creates All legal fictions are creations of government. If the creation is given power over the creator, then sovereignty is lost A person is a private entity with rights and sovereignty The American people are sovereign over the government, not the other way around.

8 End the Doctrine that Money is Speech In Buckley v Valeo (1976), the Court has ruled that money equals speech. The corollary is this: people, who have money can speak, and people who don’t, can’t. This is how a plutocracy is defined, not a democratic Republic.Buckley v Valeo No where in the Constitution does it state that money is a form of speech. The assertion that money is speech is legislating from the bench (and a violation of separation of powers).

9 Buckley usurped Congress’ power to regulate the manner of elections The Constitution is very clear about this. Article I, Section IV states, “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of Chusing Senators.”Article I, Section IV Chusing Both Buckley and Citizens United are fundamentally un-Constitutional decisions and represent a power-grab by the Supreme Court.

10 Montana state law to stop election corruption nullified In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court led that states cannot have their own campaign finance laws, and that all 50 states must abide by 2010′s Citizens United ruling. More than 20 states’ attorneys general (including the District of Columbia’s) urged the court to uphold the Montana law, arguing that corporate and union expenditures lead to corruption.

11 Failure by Supreme Court to fulfill its function in our constitutional system The court’s refusal to explain its decision on Montana’s law creates greater uncertainty for lower courts, state legislatures and those who run political campaigns, and it will invite many more challenges to other states’ campaign finance laws. One of the most important jobs of the U.S. Supreme Court is to create clarity, certainty and predictability regarding the meaning of the law. The public needs to know what acts are legal and illegal, and why. The court often is the chief expositor of the U.S. Constitution. If the court fails to explain its decisions, then it fails to fulfill its function in our constitutional system.

12 Citizens United breaks precedent: Stare decisis (ˈstɛəri dɨˈsaɪsɨs) is a legal principle by which judges are obliged to respect the precedents established by prior decisions. The words originate from the phrasing of the principle in the Latin maxim Stare decisis et non quieta movere: "to stand by decisions and not disturb the undisturbed." In a legal context, this is understood to mean that courts should generally abide by precedents and not disturb settled matters.

13 Citizens United breaks precedent: Historical background Tillman Act of 1907Tillman Act of 1907, banned corporations' contributions to political parties or candidates for any federal election campaigns Taft Hartley Act of 1947Taft Hartley Act of 1947, banned expenditures by corporations and unions in connection with general and primary federal elections Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 put limits on expenditures in campaigns Buckley v. ValeoBuckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976) struck down limits on independent expenditures as unconstitutional First National Bank of Boston v. BellottiFirst National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765 (1977) struck down a state law which criminalized corporate spending for advertising their views in the context of a state referendum Austin v. Michigan Chamber of CommerceAustin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, 494 U.S. 652 (1990) upheld a Michigan law that prohibited corporations but not unions from using funds for individual expenditures Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, prohibited "electioneering communication" by corporations unless from a segregated PAC fund McConnell v. Federal Election CommissionMcConnell v. Federal Election Commission, 540 U.S. 93 (2003) upheld Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 regulation of "electioneering communication"

14 Conservative leadership voices grave concerns Republican Senator John McCain, co-crafter of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) and the party's 2008 presidential nominee, said "there's going to be, over time, a backlash... when you see the amounts of union and corporate money that's going to go into political campaigns". [53] McCain was "disappointed by the decision of the Supreme Court and the lifting of the limits on corporate and union contributions" but not surprised by the decision, saying that "It was clear that Justice Roberts, Alito and Scalia, by their very skeptical and even sarcastic comments, were very much opposed to BCRA." [46]John McCainBipartisan Campaign Reform Act [53] [46] Republican Senator Olympia Snowe opined that "Today's decision was a serious disservice to our country." [54]Olympia Snowe [54]

15 Journalists alarm The New York Times stated in an editorial, "The Supreme Court has handed lobbyists a new weapon. A lobbyist can now tell any elected official: if you vote wrong, my company, labor union or interest group will spend unlimited sums explicitly advertising against your re-election."New York Times Jonathan Alter called it the "most serious threat to American democracy in a generation". Jonathan Alter The Christian Science Monitor wrote that the Court had declared "outright that corporate expenditures cannot corrupt elected officials, that influence over lawmakers is not corruption, and that appearance of influence will not undermine public faith in our democracy".Christian Science Monitor

16 The result – what is needed to fix this? Since the Court’s Decision, Corporate Expenditures Have Soared Spending by outside groups rose 427% in the 2010 elections, to $294.2 million. vi Super PACs, which were created after an appeals court applied Citizens United, have collectively spent more than $123 million during Campaign 2012. Overall outside spending as of June 19, 2012 was over $150 million. viii Outside spending made a big difference in the 2010 congressional elections; outside groups backed the winners in 58 of the 74 contests in which power changed hands. ix Overall spending in the 2012 election is predicted to reach new heights – up to $9.8 billion! x Why a Constitutional Amendment ? A constitutional amendment is the long-term solution to fully reverse the court’s decision, restore our rights and assert once and for all that democracy is for people, not corporations (or other entities: unions, non-profits). Join: Contact:

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