I often enjoy discussions and even disputes with people who disagree with me. What I don’t enjoy are discussions with people whose views seem impervious to the facts.
So it’s a little embarrassing to discover that I have drawn one of those non-negotiable, righteous conclusions without knowing what I was talking about.
I have said more than once that I thought the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court several years ago was one of the most destructive decisions that court has ever handed down, and that I would support a constitutional amendment to get it changed.
I did read that the decision was quite narrow, but I was sure I already knew that it gave the same democratic rights to corporations and big business as it gave to individuals. Moreover, it gave business the right to donate unlimited funds to political campaigns and thus to fundamentally buy whatever votes they wanted to.
Well, the Citizens United decision doesn’t say that exactly, and repealing it won’t make much difference. What it does allow is for entities of people to pay to express their views on political issues and in relation to political campaigns. That means that businesses can publicly and aggressively express their opinions. So can newspapers, unions, environmental groups, churches, bloggers, Tweeters, and You-tube videos.
In terms of campaign contributions, businesses and corporations are limited by the same $5,000 amounts as individuals. Unfortunately, there are a lot of ways around this limit for both groups and individuals as the law currently stands.
I don’t think we need a constitutional amendment. I think what we need is transparency. Right now it’s way too easy to make anonymous mega-donations to 501(c)s and super-PACs.
Actually, the Disclose Act that came before the last Senate and would have increased transparency dramatically was filibustered. By the Republicans.
I would be immensely valuable for American democracy if Congress could get it passed. But I’m not hopeful. The Republicans can still filibuster it.