A little over a year ago the Supreme Court of the United States made a controversial ruling that says corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited. The case known as Citizens United v Federal Election Commission allows corporations to use their general funds to buy campaign ads that was prohibited under federal law, and opened the door for unlimited contributions by corporations as well as unions. The high court cited the 1st Amendment’s guarantee of the right of free speech, and it was the first time a corporate entity was treated like a person. Detractors of the ruling cried foul and correctly pointed out that, “The Supreme Court has handed lobbyists a new weapon. A lobbyist can now tell any elected official: if you vote wrong, my company, labor union or interest group will spend unlimited sums explicitly advertising against your re-election.” The ruling also opened the door for foreign governments to affect the outcome of United States elections.
There was an attempt to assuage the damage from Citizens United in the form of the Disclose Act that passed in the Democratic controlled House last year but failed in the Senate because Democrats couldn’t muster the super majority needed to overcome Republican’s filibuster threat. The failed legislation provided tough new disclosure rules for groups that invest in the election process. President Obama summed up the necessity of the Disclose Act calling it “a critical piece of legislation to control the flood of special interest money into our elections,” and, “that it mandates unprecedented transparency in campaign spending, and it ensures that corporations who spend money on American elections are accountable first and foremost to the American people.”
Since Republicans are enamored with the notion of unlimited special interest money without transparency or accountability, it was not surprising they threatened to filibuster the measure. The 2010 midterm elections confirmed Americans’ fears with money from special interest groups and corporations flooding the airwaves with fallacious assertions and inaccurate characterizations of everything from the health law to socialist tendencies of Democratic candidates. It appeared that since the Disclose Act failed, elections would be bought by the highest bidder for years to come, but a report today gives some hope that democracy is not dead in America; yet.
On Wednesday it was reported that President Obama was drafting an executive order that would require companies pursuing federal contracts to disclose political contributions that have been secret under the Citizen’s United ruling.