Citizens United: A major threat to democracy as we know it?

February 14, 2014 Democracy No comment

So I don’t usually talk about politics or give my opinion in this blog about non-legal issues not concerning my law practice. However, I am so concerned about something going on in this country, a country I love dearly, that I feel compelled to comment.

When this country was founded, democracy was established by the Constitution. All citizens had an equal right to be heard.

What the Constitution should not allow in a democratic society is this: Whoever has the most money, makes the decisions.

Citizen United vs. FEC was a decision by the Supreme Court stating that corporations (and unions) have the same “free speech” rights as people.

What this 2010 decision did, is to overturn decades of law that basically limited the amount of money a corporation or union could contribute to political candidates. Now, there is no limit.

Before Citizens United, the Supreme Court recognized in Austin v Michigan Chamber of Commerce that the government had a compelling interest in protecting our democracy from “the corrosive and distorting effects of immense aggregations of wealth that are accumulated with the help of the corporate form and that have little or no correlation to the public’s support for the corporation’s political ideas.” The Court that decided Austin was rightly worried that corporate wealth can dominate the political process and “unfairly influence elections.”

Well, Austin is now gone. With huge corporations and the richest 1% given free reign to dominate elections through unlimited spending, political equality suffers a huge setback. What’s ultimately at stake is how much say the average citizen has over the policies that govern his or  her life. The answer is clear: much less than before Citizens United.

I, for one, intend to back a nationwide movement to amend the Constitution and/or pass laws to abolish Citizens United.

In April, the U.S. Senate is expected to consider the Fair Elections Now Act, legislation that would create a voluntary system of small donations and limited public funding for congressional candidates. This citizen-funded election model would put all contributions on an equal playing field-corporate, union, PAC and your donations. Candidates opting into this system could accept contributions of no more than $100 and only from individual donors. In the current, money-driven political system, members of Congress and candidates spend countless hours each day raising money from the same lobbyists and special interests they’re supposed to oversee in Washington. The Fair Elections system would reduce members of Congress reliance on these special interest donors and encourage them to give more attention to their constituents.

You and me.

What can I do?

Please contact your member of Congress and ask them to keep big money out of politics by co-sponsoring the Fair Elections Now Act and similar proposals.  End the pay-to-play political system in Washington. To find out more information go to, among many others,

Attribution: Common Cause website

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