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May-June 2012
Vol. 37, No. 3


Legacy of Citizens United v. FEC

In 2012, overall election spending is predicted to reach as high as $8 billion, thanks to the 2010 Supreme Court 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), which essentially granted corporations the First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts in support of or against political candidates.

Adbusters flagThe 2010 Citizens United ruling overturned laws which had prevented corporations from making independent expenditures from their general treasuries, and undermined a more than 100-year old legal framework in place through the FEC. (However, the Court did not lift the prohibition against corporations' direct donations to candidates.) As long as they do not coordinate with the candidate's campaign or give to the campaign directly, individuals and corporations with enough money can now run ads, make phone calls, and knock on doors to help elect or defeat a candidate for any public office (in a town, a district, a state, or nationally).

According to Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, the 2010 election cycle saw spending by outside groups rise 427 percent, reaching $294.2 million, which made a big difference in congressional elections. Also, "super PACs" (political action committees), created after an appeals court applied Citizens United, collectively have spent more than $45 million during this current election cycle. How will our elected officials be able to support the well-being of society when they fear that defying corporate interests will mean that millions of dollars of corporate money will be used to defeat them in the next election?

The United for the People coalition, including Public Citizen and other organizations, along with public officials, is calling for constitutional remedies to overturn the Citizens United decision and related cases. Though there are a range of tactics and views on how to fix the problem, all understand that a constitutional amendment is the long-term solution to fully reverse the court's decision.

Join the effort to pass a resolution in your own city or state. Find out more about raising awareness in your area the week of June 11 at Resolutions

Also, check out the animated eight-minute film, The Story of Citizens United v. FEC. §

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