By a 5-4 decision, a bitterly divided Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. FEC, rolling back restrictions on how much money corporations can spend to support candidates. "The text and purpose of the First Amendment point in the same direction: Congress may not prohibit political speech, even if the speaker is a corporation or union," said Chief Justice John Roberts.
However, the first amendment - "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." - says nothing about how much money can or cannot be spent to make ones voice heard.
This ruling protects the free speech of those who have money. According to Senator Mitch McConnell (R): "With today's monumental decision, the Supreme Court took an important step in the direction of restoring the First Amendment rights of these groups by ruling that the Constitution protects their right to express themselves about political candidates and issues up until Election Day."
But what about the freedom of speech rights of poor Americans - those citizens who lack money for ad campaigns and campaign contributions? They will not be heard. This ruling will unleash a torrent of attack ads in upcoming elections. Corporations, unions, and others with money will have increased power to influence government decisions.
Freedom of speech and the right to dissent are cornerstones of our democracy. However, bribery is not free speech. Even before this decision, the voices of regular Americans are being drowned out by lobbyists. In Washington, there are more than 60 lobbyists for every member of Congress. We accuse other nations of corruption and bribery, but we have simply legalized it and called it lobbying.
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