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General News    H1'ed 1/25/20

On Tenth Anniversary Of Citizens United, Seattle Bans Dark Money

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Tuesday was the tenth anniversary of the Supreme Court case that re-wrote the political landscape.

On January 21, 2010, the nation's highest court handed down its ruling on the controversial Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (FEC) decision equating political spending with free speech covered under the Constitution's first amendment.

Under this ruling, the federal government is prohibited from interfering with corporations, nonprofit organizations, and unions from spending unlimited sums to support or oppose individual political candidates.

As long as they are not presenting funds to campaigns directly, corporations are free to dump as much as they want into political advertising and "super PACs" (political action committees) not required to disclose their donors' identities.

It's what former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee--now Utah Senator--Mitt Romney referred to in 2011 when he proclaimed "Corporations are people!"

But Citizens United was not the first high court decision to hand democracy to corporations.

That distinction lies with the 1886 Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company.

In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Buckley v. Valeo that political campaign spending limits are unconstitutional.

In 2014, the McCutcheon v. FEC case further solidified Citizens United by determining unconstitutional any limits on individual contributions to federal candidate committees and national parties over a two-year period.

Thanks to these decisions, a Republican candidate with a right-wing billionaire like the Koch brothers, Mercers, or Sheldon Adelson in his or her pocket can render voters virtually superfluous.

As insurmountable as this may seem, it is possible to take back our democracy.

Consider Vt. Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination that has shattered fundraising records with just individual donations sans corporate influence, something most prior to his 2016 run for the White House assumed impossible in a post-Citizens United milieu.

Now myriad Democratic candidates for state, local, and federal office are refusing corporate backing.

In fact, corporate cash has become a blight on a candidate's reputation.

A week before Citizens United's tenth birthday, the Seattle, Wash. City Council unanimously banned "foreign-influenced" companies from local elections' political spending.

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Ted Millar is a writer and teacher. His work has been in featured in myriad literary journals, including Straight Forward Poetry, Better Than Starbucks, the Broke Bohemian, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices (more...)

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