When the Supreme Court issued its decision in Citizens United v. FEC, many said that it would lead to corporations using their vast treasuries to overwhelm their competition. The New York Times, for instance, said that the opinion “opened the floodgates for big business and special-interest dollars to overwhelm American politics.”
The evidence from several months later, though, shows that these dire predictions have not quite panned out. The Washington Post and Mother Jones have both reported about a number of new organizations that have begun to speak in the wake of Citizens United. Rather than General Electric and Microsoft doing the talking, though, it’s been the AFL-CIO, the SEIU and the AFSCME. All three unions have run radio and television ads in recent primaries that explicitly called for the election or defeat of candidates.
This kind of “express advocacy” was illegal until the Supreme Court held in Citizens United that the First Amendment prohibits laws, passed by Congress, that prevent groups of citizens from speaking out during elections. Hopefully other groups – including corporations – will soon join these unions and make their voices heard. After all, the Supreme Court in Citizens United said that “it is our law and our tradition that more speech, not less, is the governing rule.” Perhaps if groups continue to speak out and the republic does not end as some have predicted, we will one day come to view the campaign finance laws in much the same way we now view the alien and sedition acts.
Image Source: Beige Alert