More than three-quarters of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll oppose the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows unlimited corporate and union campaign spending.
The nation’s highest court declined to reconsider its 2010 campaign finance ruling on Monday and made clear that the decision also applies to state and local elections.
By a 5-4 vote, the court overturned the Montana Supreme Court’s decision upholding a state law limiting corporate political spending. The court’s 2010 decision declared that restrictions on independent expenditures violated the First Amendment’s free-speech protections.
In Citizens United, the nation’s high court ruled that corporations and labor unions have the same free-speech rights as individuals. The decision opened the door to unlimited political spending by business and labor interests as long as it is independent of the campaigns it is intended to support.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the court’s dissenters, had welcomed the Montana case as “an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates’ allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway.”
Roughly 625 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted June 25 and 26.
Do you support or oppose the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allows unlimited corporate and union campaign spending?
Citizens United continues to be wrong. Worst decision since Bush v. Gore. Worst reasoning since the Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) and Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) decisions in the 19th century. Montana should be able to regulate state elections. Money is not speech, especially in the 21st century.
—Nathan J. Robfogel
We already have a long record of spending far too much money on election campaigns. Citizens United just makes the situation worse.
Absolutely not! If there is one single thing that would change so much in this country for the better, it would be getting rid of the notion of corporate personhood. Corporations have no individual rights in a democracy; they do, however, in a fascist state.
It is called process within our democracy. The Supreme Court interprets our Constitution. That’s what it does. Whether I agree or disagree is my right, but “support,” that’s what I do. I support the Constitution of the United States. By the way, I don’t agree with it. Free speech is not who can shout the loudest and get heard by the most.
Since there did not appear to be any prior restriction on campaign spending by unions, the Citizens United decision, and it’s now being upheld, returns some semblance of balance to the political support scheme.
—Tony Compisi, Monroe Warehousing & Distribution
Legislation for sale! Even the most well-meaning candidates must commit large blocks of time to raising funds. Getting their message out is not free. It is simply naive to think that large donors don’t influence the elected officials’ actions. Our “free” elections have become a kind of auction. The Supreme Court opened up the auction to non-person commercial entities. Certainly a boon for well-connected candidates and a barrier for novices equipped only with “good ideas.”
—Wayne Donner, Rush
Unlimited corporate and union campaign funding skews the process. The voices of ordinary citizens have no chance of being heard in this environment. People have to pay for access to our lawmakers. Lobbyists control that access and the message. It makes us all very cynical and disconnected.
—Frances Reese, independent environmental consultant
Corporations and unions are not people.
Interesting choice of words. We have no choice but to “support” it. It is now the law of the land. The real issue here is that in the U.S. we can allow “all” or “none.” Either everyone can send money, or no one can. The real solution then is not to try to limit one group or type of political advertising because that will not fly with the Supreme Court. The better effort would be to eliminate it all.
Corporations are not individuals. Considering them as such puts an extraordinary amount of control and power into the hands of a few (undeserving and unelected) individuals.
—Donald A. Dinero, TWI Learning Partnership
Each time we try to control this, it gets more out of control. I propose two rules to cover everything. While letting anybody and everything to give an unlimited amount, we require: first, that all campaign donations to any campaign or fund be made public; and second, that each fund pay a tax to the general funds of the related level of government equivalent to the highest rate on the richest of Americans. Smoke on that one!
The Citizens United decision will harm and possibly destroy the political system as we know it. Basically those with wealth—be they individuals, corporations or unions—will determine what political candidates are elected and those politicians will be beholden to those who provided the funds to elect them. With campaigns ever more expensive and the substantial influence of expensive media buys over public thought, discourse and values, the ability to "buy" an election and the favorable legislation that comes with that election only serves those who can afford to put "their person" in office. It gives most of us little hope that the interests of the American public will be well served.
—Michael L. Harf
“What is good for General Motors is good for the country.” GM and other corporations live by the quarterly report; not exactly a good plan for creating a sustainable future. We have seen what happens when the long-term is eliminated. Unlimited campaign spending by individuals and groups will undermine what remains of our democratic society. Incumbents will continue to win elections and continue to act the same way. Change will be avoided, and change is required.
—Jim DeLuca, Abundance Cooperative Market
This ruling gives corporations far too much political power; vis-à-vis, U.S. citizens because of their superior financial resources. They have the ability to influence every branch of government (and even U.S. citizens through carefully crafted media messages). It stacks the deck far too much in their favor. When there are differing interests between the average citizen and a corporation, this ruling insures that the corporate interest will prevail over citizens’ interests almost every time.
—Brad VanAuken, president, BrandForward Inc.
Question: When did money become speech? The Citizen United decision only further confirms that we no longer have a government "of the people, by the people, for the people,” rather "of the wealthy, by the lobbyists, for the corporations.”
—David Belcher, LeRoy
The infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars into campaign advertising from anonymous donors with no accountability regarding the veracity of content takes the electoral process from the many and places it in the hands of a very few wealthy individuals. Due to the power of TV advertising, our Democracy is diminished and flawed; and hyper-partisanship increases hampering the functioning of our federal government during our too-long electoral process.
I support treating businesses and unions the same. Whether they are both allowed or both prohibited from making contributions doesn’t really matter.
This decision institutionalizes wholesale corruption. It will allow the interests of the few to dominate the decisions that affect all. Corporations that are flush with cash are able to assert their wishes through the political process. Likewise, unions will be also be able to perpetuate their power in a vicious cycle of "support the politician who channels the most funds to its union members—in exchange, these union members will continue to fund that friendly politician." Political campaigns will be funded by the wealthiest donors seeking the highest return on investment. Everyone else will suffer. Regrettably, the temptation of power affects equally labor leaders and corporate leaders. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the court’s decision causes irreparable damage to individual political rights.
—G. Traikos, The Traikos Group
The issue of buying influence could be significantly reduced in effectiveness with one simple change in the law. Term limits. We have them in the executive we should have them on the legislative.
What a Catch-22! Corporations are defined as individuals and treated as such. So far as this non-lawyer understands, a corporation’s individual rights are what create the liability wall between individuals and the company they own or work for. If we take steps to deny this, I fear that we risk setting precedent that there is indeed a difference. The result might be that individuals—humans/citizens —are eventually saddled with higher liability and this to me could eventually stifle innovation. On the other hand, corporations are not living breathing citizens but instead made up of a group of living breathing individuals. The morality applied in a group setting cannot ever represent the exact convictions of the individual. We vote as individuals. Our rights in this free society are applied first to the individual citizen. I cannot believe that the sway of a corporation is a wholly accurate portrayal what citizens want. In this respect it cannot be proper for corporations to be unlimited in their giving. If they are, it by nature is a perversion of the political process. I would rather see corporations be granted clear right to advertise and lobby for a candidate on their own with a strict caveat: Money must not flow through the campaign and ALL lobby and advertizing must be clearly labeled with their corporation’s name to offer full transparency. In this way, citizens may evaluate agendas more clearly as they are propagandized during campaign season.
—Josh Pies, executive producer, C47 Film Associates
I have repeatedly expressed my opinion that two ways to clean up the horrible political mess is: Government financing of campaigns with restricted budgets, no more spending $100 million on a campaign. This eliminates all the special interests and lobbyists! Term limits so people do not begin campaigning as soon as they are elected. The recent Supreme Court decision is not in the best interests of the citizens of this country!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
My opinion is that somehow limiting or regulating the amount of money individuals, PACS, corporations, unions, companies, etc., could funnel to candidates, makes for a purer political environment. It is a shame that the political system has lost its way—from true governance of the populace according to the Constitution and the guidance our Founding Fathers provided, to a game of political survival for candidates wielding and abusing power mired in paybacks to contributors at the expense of the common citizen. Let the candidates win their positions based on integrity, ethics, policy and capability, instead of willingness to sell their souls to the highest bidders. Consider using common sense when contemplating the next election cycle. We have elected officials that have been in high office for dozens of years. What state is our country in? Where have manufacturing jobs gone? What condition is our economy in? What is our education system like? How about Medicaid-Medicare-Social Security? Whose fault is it that all these things are underwater or failing? The other party? In the same vein, we should revert back to citizen politicians versus career politicians. Term limits. What’s so hard about that? Just do it. The whole system is flawed and corrupt with our tax dollars funding the charade. I’m puzzled that the SCOTUS has ruled to basically enable politicians to be "bought." Policies with regard to Obamacare, abortion, gay marriage and affirmative action are prime examples of politicians pandering to their source of financial support, not the desires of the majority of the citizenry which they supposedly represent. We need politicians to represent the majority of taxpaying citizens of the USA. No one or nothing else. Period.
Corporations and unions are not people. Therefore, the Constitutional basis for Citizen’s United is wrong!
—Mike Bleeg, Strategic Results
I support their ruling in the sense that they ruled based on what current law says. The laws need to change in the area surrounding campaign finance to limit ALL contributions (not just corporations). If unions can contribute then corporations can, too. But they should all be limited to a total dollar amount that can be contributed (as well as individuals), and that dollar amount should be small per individual, per corporation or per union. The same goes for lobbying. None of these funding issues would be important if the politicians just stopped actually TAKING the money.
—Lee Drake, CEO, OS-Cubed Inc.
There are too many paths for these groups to pack someone’s pockets in return for something; so why try to prevent it?
—Daniel Mossien, architect
The Supreme Court decision regarding Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is the gravest threat ever posed to our country and our Constitution. We are on a path where government of the people, by the people and for the people, will perish from this Earth.
I disagree with the concept that a corporation has the same rights and privileges as a person. Corporations are permitted to exist under laws passed by legislative bodies representing society (consisting of human beings). Corporations are thus artificial entities. In no way, shape or form was it ever intended that they have the same rights as people.
— Doug Flood
How this ruling can be considered legal shows how totally distorted our government has become. We the people did not elect corporations to represent us and this is also true of unions that only represent a microcosm of people that pay them to represent them and their own interests. It is a sad day for our wonderful country when we are so easily pushed aside to give precedence to the power and influence of corporations and corruption filled unions.
—Marion Oyer, Bags Unlimited
We are a government of, by and for the people. Corporations are not people. If we have decided that corporations are people, then we might as well all stop voting and just let the corporations govern us, because corporations by nature will always have more money than citizens will. Do we really want to sell our government to the highest bidder?
—Fred Dewey, CEO, Kachingle Inc.
I can’t imagine the rationale that allowed this ruling. Conversely, we are taught that the formation of the corporation separates persons from the entity so that the person is not liable for the corporate actions. How can you possibly trample that principle by now suggesting that corporations are people? Not only is this an incredible affront to that long-held principle, but obviously a dangerous one that now puts us in the position of being able to "purchase" a president. Is that really the way this great, proud, free democracy wants to choose its leaders?
—Alan R. Ziegler; Rochester Area Business Ethics Foundation
The court seems focused on legal technicalities and unconcerned with the practical consequences of its decision. We already have a plutocracy and seem to be moving rapidly to an oligarchy. Allowing unlimited corporate funding assures that the politicians will be utterly owned and controlled by the corporations. The current election spending far outstrips what the rank and file electorate could possibly provide. So to whom will the political winners be indebted? In previous cases the court has argued that if Congress disagrees, it can change the law. How many Congress persons will change the law to risk shutting down their personal payments? It’s the "Gilded Age" revisited. I fear the ultimate consequence will be near permanently to cripple our economy, perhaps with a real depression as the dénouement. The golden goose of the American economy and the American Dream may already be dead. If so, the Supreme Court can take some credit for the deed.
This ruling ensures that elections go to the highest bidder. That can’t be what we want.
—David Lamb, Rochester
I guess freedom of speech is one thing but huge contributions amount to buying the candidate and is repeated so they get reelected. I hope we can find a better way of financing elections that is fair to all and does not have the public paying for it thorough taxes.
This guarantees the takeover of our political system by big money interests – and that will NOT benefit American society in the long run!
—Paul Haney, Rochester
Regulating political speech just creates more problems. David Axelrod says he wants to amend the First Amendment. How? By replacing "free" with "fair"? Imagine if the First Amendment allowed only "fair" speech, "fair" religion and “fair" press? If you think money matters now, what would it be like if Obama or Bush or Mr. Morsi decided what was fair? No, thank you. More speech please.
—Peter Durant, Nixon Peabody
To state that the Founding Fathers intended the Bill of Rights to apply to artificial legal constructs such as corporations, giving them the same standing as the rights of individual citizens, is absurd.
—Jim Bertolone, Rochester AFL-CIO
Anyone has the right to contribute to political parties. I just wish I had more to contribute! If unions can contribute, why can’t corporations?
6/29/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.