With literally billions poured into races around the nation, Republicans took the House and Senate. In one of the most fraudulent election cycles in United States history, dark money and gerrymandered districts ruled the day. Yet despite an unmotivated base punishing Democrats, despite a corrupted political system that has resulted in legislators virtually ignoring constituents in favor of donors, certain wishes of the people stood clear — raise the damn wage, and perhaps more importantly, get the money out of politics.
Since the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision was handed down by the Supreme Court, and expanded upon in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, we’ve entered a strange new world where money equals speech, and limiting money spent on campaigns somehow equates to infringing the right to free speech. This has resulted in record-setting spending in every election cycle since, and has reduced the meaning of actual votes and constituent voices to almost nil while legislators spend ever more time courting cash.
And the people are sick of it. Despite Citizens United benefiting Republicans more than Democrats (if you thought it wasn’t partisan, think again), many people from both sides of the aisle can agree — campaign finance laws need reform. Candidates supporting campaign finance reform may have lost, but when it comes to ballot measures, voters were clear.
In Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Wisconsin, voters passed measures urging legislators to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. And the news only gets better from there.
From a Move to Amend press release:
Residents in dozens of cities had the opportunity to vote on measures calling for an end to the doctrines of corporate constitutional rights and money as free speech, and in every single town the vote was supportive. Often by an overwhelming margin.
“Nearly all Americans share the sentiment that corporations should not have the same rights as people, and big money in politics should be removed,” stated Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, National Director of Move to Amend. “It is time for Congress to pass the We the People Amendment and send it to the states for ratification. The leadership of both parties need to realize that their voters are clamoring for this amendment, and we are only going to get louder.”
They also mention, “Across the country, 16 state legislatures have voted for an amendment, as well as almost 600 towns, villages, cities and other organizations.”
According to a relevant Gallup poll, 79 percent of United States citizens support some type of campaign finance reform resulting in lower spending, while fully half say that federal elections should be publicly funded, without donor competition.
It’s unlikely that a Republican Senate and House will pass a bill to reform campaign finance through constitutional amendment, though, despite the fact Obama would almost certainly sign it. If polls are any indication, it might even have a decent shot at being ratified. Unfortunately, candidates — and now lawmakers — that were funded by big business and major private donors speak for those donors, and aren’t likely to pass laws restricting their influence.
The chairman of the organization Citizens United, the plaintiff in the case of the same name mentioned above, recently expressed his happiness over the election results, believing the case to have affected this election cycle. It did. He also made a claim about it “leveling the playing field.” It has done anything but, largely because most Americans don’t and can’t donate anywhere near the maximum anyway. So how the hell would erasing spending limits and letting dark money form a large percentage of election spending “layer the playing field?”
As Lawrence Lessig wrote in a column for The Atlantic in 2012,
A tiny number of Americans — .26 percent — give more than $200 to a congressional campaign. .05 percent give the maximum amount to any congressional candidate. .01 percent give more than $10,000 in any election cycle.
The end of money in politics will come. The question is how soon. As Lessig goes on to say, “Some call this plutocracy. Some call it a corrupted aristocracy. I call it unstable. Just as America learned under the Articles of Confederation, where one state had the power to block the resolve of the rest, a nation in which so few have the power to block change is not a nation that can thrive.”