Reconsider ruling that spawned Super PACs
Published: Thursday, March 8, 2012
Updated: Thursday, March 8, 2012 15:03
When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of unlimited corporate spending on elections in its Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, did it foresee the grave effects it would have on our elections? When the Supreme Court ruled that corporations had freedom of speech, did they ever imagine that faux corporations called "Super PAC's" would rule the political landscape, being used solely for electioneering? Did they foresee that public trust in our democracy would fall so far?
Now the Supreme Court has a chance to answer these questions once and for all, and they should jump at it.
The Supreme Court recently issued a temporary hold on a ruling from the Montana Supreme Court, which ruled directly against the Citizens United ruling. Montana claimed the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling shouldn't go for Montana and that corporations in their state should not be able to spend money on elections. Now, the justices have a chance to rehear the case that has been certified to them and answer – definitively -- these questions.
In theory, the ruling the court made two years ago is intellectually sound. Corporations are, in essence, a group of people; people have freedom of speech and speech is done substantially by where one chooses to spend money. Hence, corporations should be able to spend money on their own speech, even if that includes electioneering.
The problem is that there are limitations on freedom of speech. One is free to speak wherever they so choose, so long as it does not present a "clear and present danger" to the public. For instance, the famous metaphor of shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre presents such a clear and present danger.
In this case, if the American people see this increase of spending on elections and begin losing faith in the foundations of American democracy, one could reasonably assume that super political action committees present a "clear and present danger" to the country. In Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion, he rejects the idea that increased spending will do this, saying, "The appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy, according to The New York Times. "
Two years later, we have seen first-hand the crumbling of Americans' faith in our democracy. A recent CNN poll found that 86 percent of Americans believe that politicians in Washington are influenced mainly by pressure by campaign contributors, while only 12 percent believed they are influenced by the issues. According to polling by Democracy Corps, two thirds of voters believe that big money and secret donors undermines democracy.
As a result, we have seen political upheaval not seen since the 1960's. In October of last year, people from across the nation began holding "occupy" protests, largely to protest the influence of money in politics. During these protests, civil rights advocate and Princeton Professor Cornell West was arrested in front of the court for protesting the Citizens United ruling, according to CBS News.
In light of these new developments, can the Supreme Court say for certain that increased money in elections does not "cause the electorate to lose faith in democracy?" I would argue that they can't, and henceforth should reconsider their prior ruling. I'm not alone in this opinion, as both Justice Ginsberg and Breyer are calling for their fellow justices to rehear the case, according to ABC News.
The American people deserve to have this case heard again, no matter how they rule, and put this to rest once and for all. If not, the foundation of our democracy, the trust of citizens in their representative government, could be eroded forever.