Last year, comedian Stephen Colbert’s “super” political action committee (PAC) raised over a million dollars that he said was used “to materially influence the elections – in full accordance with the law.” “It’s the way our founding fathers would have wanted it,” he said, “if they had founded corporations instead of just a country.”
Colbert was poking fun at what many Americans believe to be one of the worst U.S. Supreme Court decisions in our nation's history.
This month marks the 3rd anniversary of the controversial Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission decision, which narrowly passed by a 5-4 vote on January 21, 2010 and gave corporations the status of individuals for the purpose of election contributions.
Following that decision and others in lower courts, the FEC implemented changes in the election laws that further expanded corporate power. Super-PACs were born to legally channel unlimited amounts of money to campaigns, giving corporate interests enormous influence over government policy.
With public welfare already taking a back seat to corporate profit, the Citizens United decision was utterly misguided. The inevitable effect of the ruling was of such concern that even retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor spoke against it.
In the three years since the decision, a national movement has taken root to overturn Citizens United by amending the U.S. Constitution. There is broad support from businesses, organizations, and individuals across the political spectrum.
In October 2012, New Jersey became then the 9th state in the nation to pass a resolution supporting an amendment-to-overturn.
Included with this post is an impressive 27-page paper written by Elizabeth Rassweiler, who has a masters degree from New York University and further graduate work in public administration. Ms. Rassweiler does a commendable job explaining the impact of the Citizens United decision, other related cases, and subsequent FEC actions. The paper’s introduction (the first 4 pages) provides of good summary of the key issues and is a very good read. The paper is current as of January 2012.