It has been eight years since a Conservative-dominated Supreme Court issued its now infamous Citizens United ruling. The 5-4 decision is demonstrably among the most damaging and politically corrosive actions ever taken by the Judicial Branch.
The effect of Citizens United has been a wide-scale disenfranchisement of the average American voter. It has eroded faith among-rank-and-file Americans in their institutions of government. It has opened the door for an unprecedented power grab by giant corporations and self-serving billionaire oligarchs.
The essential element of Citizens United was that it allowed unlimited financial contributions to any candidate. Furthermore, all money given to politicians did not have to be disclosed to the general public. Citizens United established that corporations could be defined as “people” and that “money” was the equivalent of “free speech” — and thus campaign donations could not be curtailed or limited.
An inevitable race to the basement followed. Politicians eager for power and a seat in the highest offices of the land immediately went on the take. They accepted truckloads of cash from any corporate organization hungry to have government officials do their bidding — even if that meant ignoring the needs of the American people.
In reaction, a core group of concerned citizens formed a political action committee (PAC) to fight back. End Citizens United was founded in 2015 with a razor-like goal of getting Big Money out of politics. The group wants nothing less than a Constitutional Amendment that would negate the damaging effects Citizens United has inflicted upon American democracy.
A Constitutional Amendment is a huge undertaking, no matter what the cause or purpose. Getting one requires that two-thirds of the 50 states to first ratify it and then a two-thirds majority vote in Congress is required to make it a reality.
End Citizens United officials are well aware of the task. They have opted for a step-by-step approach. That means taking on and winning individual elections one at a time — and in this case — backing candidates that support the urgent need to eliminate the monetary power of corporations to influence U.S. elections.
This almost always means supporting progressive Democrats over conservative Republicans. Today, Republicans control all three branches of government — they secured their power riding waves of illicit Big Money that is also often “Dark Money.” Campaign finance laws have become so lax and unaccountable, it has become exceedingly difficult to know where campaign contributions are coming from, even if that means a hostile foreign power, such as Russia. It is still illegal to take money from a foreign government, but Citizens United has made this law inherently difficult to monitor or control.
End Citizens United almost immediately struck a chord with millions of Americans. Donating an average of just $14, hundreds of thousands of supporters enabled ECU to raise $35 million ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. That was after a $25 million haul from the previous election cycle.
It’s this grassroots style of political action that members of ECU hope will spell the end of Citizens United, get Big Money out of our election system and return the power of American government back to where it belongs — with the people.