Before I was legally able to vote, I took an interest in U.S. politics and the campaigns of presidential candidates. I was always a firm believer that every vote mattered and encouraged everyone around me who was over the legal age to vote. I paid close attention to the promises made by presidential candidates and the plans they had for the American people. I was quite optimistic and tried to put my faith in the presidential candidates’ plans for the future. The only real criticism I ever received for my optimism was from my sister who always told me that the elections belonged in the hands of those who endorsed presidential elections.
“The companies and businesses who contribute to these campaigns will be the only ones who will matter once either of these candidates is sworn into office,” she would always say. I never believed her, but the recent Supreme Court ruling of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission may just change my mind.
Before the ruling, for-profit and non-for-profit corporations were prohibited from airing “broadcasting communications” within 30 days before a presidential primary and 60 days before a general election. Furthermore, corporations and unions were prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to make and run their own campaigns.
The five-to-four ruling by the Supreme Court struck down these provisions.
The decision by the Supreme Court justifies what my sister had always told me. Allowing corporations to spend political advertising campaigns without limit gives more power to those with the most money and weakens the influence of the smaller contributions made by ordinary U.S. citizens. While the previous statement seems completely obvious, many may not immediately realize the serious effect this decision will have on our political system.
The representatives and presidents we vote for are put into office to represent us. We choose the candidates who promise to represent our values and beliefs. Candidates listen to what we have to say because we are the ones who elect them. When American citizens disapprove of the way Congress and the White House represents them, they command change and elect representatives who will represent them the right way. Now that the Supreme Court has allowed corporations to spend in unlimited amounts; the power of electing these officials has shifted from the hands of individual U.S. citizens to the hands of businesses.
Presidential and Congressional candidates campaign to communicate their beliefs, values and goals to the American people. In order to win, candidates want to reach as many people as possible through their campaigns in order to convince them that they are the right candidate.
Running an effective campaign requires advertising, speeches and tours (whether across the country or across a state). Campaigns, in short, require an enormous amount of money. Money that corporations are now able to supply indirectly to candidates in unlimited amounts in smear campaigns against opponents.
This Supreme Court ruling places politicians right in the pockets of the lobbyists and businesses that are financing their campaigns. A candidate running for office will almost always accept any kind of financial contribution they can get, even indirectly. These contributions fuel their campaign and their chances of winning the election.
Imagine a company endorsing a candidate who ends up being elected into office. This newly elected official represents his constituents well and is up for re-election. However, during his term, this official votes for a piece of legislation that was not in the best interest of the company who endorsed him.
While not all businesses are evil, they do want to look out for their own interests. And even thought this official may have been the best candidate for his position, the company who endorsed him will be sure spend an unlimited amount of money campaigning against his reelection. Can you blame them? As a result, the candidate who best represents the interests of a majority may be forced to represent the interests of those with the money.
This decision will open the doors to corruption and bribery. In addition, this ruling will severely affect the political parties that do not accept corporate contributions, such as the Green Party. The decision made by the Supreme Court is disappointing and will drive the electoral process right into the path of corruption.