The Citizens United ruling in the Supreme Court has emerged as perhaps the most important Supreme Court case in years, essentially lifting the limits that corporations and other organizations could spend on political campaigns. As a result, huge amounts of cash have been flowing into election campaigns as companies and other organizations seek to influence the outcome of elections.
Last week, a Senate Judiciary Committee quietly backed a potential amendment to the United States Constitution that would limit how much money corporations and other organizations could use to spend on elections. The last time the Constitution was amended was in 1992 when the 27th Amendment was passed, outlawing Congress persons from giving themselves a raise within their current terms.
While just about every amendment to the Constitution has had dramatic effects on law and governance, this potential 28th amendment could possibly reshape the entire political landscape. By curtailing how much corporations and organizations can spend on elections and political purposes, it would push “big money” out of the election process.
Republicans Fighting Rollback of Citizens United
A recent poll found that 80 percent of Americans oppose Citizens United, a level of opposition that has remained relatively unchanged since the Supreme Court made its ruling in 2010. In spite of the broad opposition to the Citizens United case, the Republican Party has remained firmly in support of free spending.
Whether or not Democrats actually support the measure in earnest, or are simply trying to earn brownie points with voters remains to be seen. Regardless, the amendment pushed its way through the Senate Judiciary Committee in an 10-08 vote split along party lines. Some Republican leaders have already begun to lambaste the bill as an assault on free speech.
Ted Cruze recently penned an attack on the Democrat Party, claiming that Democrats were essentially trying to limit free speech by rolling back Citizens United. While Mr. Cruze did raise some valid points about ensuring that the Federal government doesn’t overstep his bounds, he also strongly supported the continued free spending ways of corporations and other organizations, something most Americans clearly oppose. The editorial was published in the Wall Street Journal.
Republicans have also claimed that if passed, the amendment would mark the first change to the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. This, in and of itself, is a questionable topic as many people do not believe that corporations and other organizations should be treated as people.
Amendment Unlikely to Pass
While the amendment did make its way through the Judiciary committee, it is unlikely to advance much further. Democrats do control the Senate but a filibuster could always be used to the Republicans to block a vote. Even if the bill somehow passes the Senate, the GOP controlled house is unlikely to pass the bill.
Instead, Citizens United and the attempt to curb spending by corporations will likely become a major talking point between Republican and Democrats. The issue could prove crucial in the up-coming mid-term elections, which are promising to be among the most intense mid-terms in history.
Both Parties Benefit From Citizens United
While Republicans may be the biggest supporters of “free speech” and free spending by corporations and other organizations, Democrats have also been raking in huge amounts of funding. Citizens United has opened the floodgates of campaign spending. Liberals brought in nearly $300 million dollars in the 2012 election, a huge sum but far behind the $720 million dollars brought in by Conservative parties.
In 2008, independent expenditures accounted for $143.6 million dollars. In 2010, however, the Citizens United ruling lifted restrictions and by 2012 independent expenditures skyrocketed to $1 billion dollars.
The race for President always yields the highest spending, but there has also been a huge increase in spending