March 1, 2012
It took no time at all for the dire predictions about the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision to be realized in full during what are still the early stages of the long presidential campaign season. We urge Berkshire legislators to join a fledgling effort on Beacon Hill asking Congress to overturn the Supreme Court decision.
The Court’s 5-4 decision unleashed contributions from corporations and the extremely wealthy on campaigns with no restrictions and no way to enforce the regulation that supposedly prevents donors from working together with their favored candidates. Here is all anyone needs to know about the impact of the court ruling last year. According to an Associated Press review of campaign finance reports, more than half of the $60 million collected by the so-called superPACS that were created as a byproduct of the court decision came from just 24 people. Twenty-four Americans whose wealth gives them the ability to distort campaigns through the funding of political ads that are often virulently negative and loose with the facts.
Massachusetts legislators and activists rallied at the Statehouse Tuesday to lobby for passage of a resolution urging Congress to repeal Citizens United. This is part of a growing national effort to address a campaign system that threatens our democracy by undermining the First Amendment rights of average Americans who don’t possess overwhelmingwealth. Free speech isn’t free if it must be bought, and our election system is in peril if only the candidates financed by wealthy supporters are able to survive it.
A Montana law banning corporations from making independent campaign expenditures offered hope earlier this month when the Montana Supreme Court overturned a challenge by ruling that … “the impact of unlimited corporate donations creates a dominating impact on the political process and inevitably minimizes the impact of individual citizens.” Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, both a federal district judge and the U.S. Supreme Court itself have issued injunctions preventing Montana from enforcing the law.
This will be a long, uphill battle given that many in Congress are content with a system that allows wealthy individuals and corporations to line their campaign accounts. But as resolution co-sponsor state Senator James Eldridge, an Acton Democrat, said Tuesday, “The problem is real and we owe it to the citizens of the commonwealth to do what we can as a Legislature to stop this.” We hope our county delegation will back this important effort.