The Supreme Court decision for Citizens United v. FEC harms the election process.
Debate Rounds (3)
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions.
Contention 1: Citizens United v. FEC causes undue corporate influence over the election process.
Quoting Peter Rothberg in his article "The Story of 'Citizens United' vs. the FEC", "And the results of the 2010 election bore out progressive fears as corporate-front groups flooded the electoral zone with massive contributions to reactionary Tea Party candidates. In fact, as Leonard's film makes clear, the kind of independent groups that corporations are now allowed to support spent $300 million to influence the 2010 midterm elections, more than every midterm election since 1990 combined."
Non-profit spending increased from zero percent of total spending by outside groups in 2006 to 42 percent in 2010. Outside interest groups spent more on election season political advertising than party committees for the first time in at least two decades, besting party committees by about $105 million. The amount of independent expenditure and electioneering communication spending by outside groups has quadrupled since 2006. Seventy-two percent of political advertising spending by outside groups in 2010 came from sources that were prohibited from spending money.
The issue at hand is that the Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment to the Constitution as a free speech to both the people and corporations, and therefore are allowed to politically advertise for or against certain candidates. Corporations are not people.
". . . corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their 'personhood' often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of "We the People" by whom and for whom our Constitution was established." -Supreme Court Justice Stevens
78% of outside spending in 2012 " $365 million of the total $465 million is traced back to Citizens United. The 2010 ruling by the supreme court allowed corporations and unions to spend an unlimited amount of money on campaigning, enabling Super PACs to spend exceedingly large amounts of money as long as they had no coordination with the candidates they support. However in reality, those running Super PACs have often had close ties to political parties. Former George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove runs the conservative American Crossroads Super PAC, while Restore Our Future, a pro-Mitt Romney Super PAC, was founded by former Romney aides. Voters deserve information, and are in danger of being misled without it.
Simply put, the Citizens United decision has dramatically diluted the voice of every American who does not control a large corporate treasury, and has unleashed billions of dollars in corporate money to dominate elections at all levels of government. Corporations are now allowed to drown the opinions of the real American using money, which fundamentally hurts all aspects of the election process.
Contention 2: Citizens United causes political cynicism and voter apathy.
The idea that elections are now controlled by whoever can obtain the largest sum of capital causes many eligible voters to stop voting, because they think their opinions will be overruled by corporations.
According to Jeffrey Rosen, "The 5-4 majority decision in Citizens United, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, was remarkable for its combination of judicial overconfidence and political cluelessness " the most blinkered sentence in the opinion was surely Kennedy"s sonorous prediction that the "appearance of influence or access" by corporations on the political process "will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy." Kennedy"s prediction has proved dramatically wrong. The Citizens United decision unleashed super PACs, the now ubiquitous corporate-funded groups that spent more than $300 million during the 2010 midterm elections. This massive increase in corporate spending led to a spike in political cynicism." (Citizens United v. FEC decision proves justice is blind " politically)
This is all completely true. In 2008 the voter turnout for the eligible voters was 62.3%. In 2012, however, the voter turnout dropped to 57.5%, a major decline caused by Citizens United according to the Bipartisan Research Center. These same figures were given by the Center for the Study of the American Electorate.
It turns out that this year"s presidential campaign season has been the most negative on record with 70 percent negative ads, according to a new Wesleyan Media Project study. According to Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, one reason the campaign has been so negative is the skyrocketing involvement of interest groups, who have increased their activity by 1100 percent over four years ago. There"s a big reason for the increased involvement, and that"s Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that said outside groups can spend an unlimited amount of money on campaigns. That decision led to the advent of Super PACs, groups whose sole purpose it to spend money attacking their opponents and lauding the candidates they support. The results of the Super PAC campaign era are clear: In 2008, only 25.2 percent of outside group ads were negative " but today, 86 percent are.
This voter apathy ultimately leads to less voices of the people in elections, which overall undermines the elections process. Less people participating in the political process leads to an undermined democracy.
Contention one: Citizens United levels the playing field. A problem with our current election process is that incumbents, or previous officials, have a much easier time staying in office, and new competitors often lack the funds necessary to win an election. This is especially true in areas where there are very few competitors.
According to the Congressional Campaign Committee, an alarming large percentage of elected officials are incumbents who have run before. They hold a drastic advantage over their counterparts who did not have access to as many funds. In fact, according to the New York Times, almost 91% of all elected officials are re-elected, and it is rare for less than 80% to be not reelected.
Josh Kraushaar, executive editor of National Journal Hotline, said that, "Challengers have to work much harder to prove their viability, and even the strongest recruits usually lag well behind incumbents in fundraising. Many challengers also have to face primaries, further draining their campaign coffers before a general election."
He also goes on to say "With the explosion of super PACs, though, its a lot easier for candidates without those perks of power to quickly get help in closing the financial gap."
This makes sense because while candidates are in office, they collect funds and connections through lobbyists and fellow congressmen. However, with the rise of Super PACs, non-incumbents have far easier access to funds to help usurp the throne-like status of some incumbents.
Kraushaar cites Steve Israel (the Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) who said that in the 2010 House Elections, many Democratic incumbents (63 to be exact), all of whom had significant financial advantages, lost the election due to aid to new challengers by super PACs.
As these show, corporate donations give money to non-incumbents, and candidates with more money tend to win more. Thus, corporate donations level the playing field. This is important because it gives both the candidate and the people a real chance at a fair election. It is also important because we will not have a glorified monarchy where one wealthy or powerful individual controls everything.
Contention two: Citizens United expands the marketplace of ideas. With the Citizens United case, corporate donations have risen dramatically. This year alone, Priorities USA Super PAC (the Super PAC associated with Obama) has raised 20.7 million dollars and Restore our Future Super PAC has raised 81.3 million.
These contributions allow candidates to show far more political advertising than they would have been able to previously (roughly 25% more for Restore our Future). Recent evidence has shown that political ads increase accurate knowledge of issues by up to 100% (either through information conveyed in the ad or by curiosity caused by the ad which fostered further research). A study done by the Campaign Contribution Analysis Committee did a peer reviewed study which concluded that an increase in information directly correlates to a more informed public, regardless of whether or not that information is totally correct. The reason behind this is that inaccurate information is commonly questioned and therefore the voters gain knowledge. Because corporations have special interests, voters also hear about specific campaign related issues.
Specifically, the study showed that the information people encountered in political advertisements were much more accurate than in previous years. They were shown to be increased from 68% to 74%. Since a critical component of democracy, as it has been defined, is the ability to make informed decisions, it is therefore obvious that corporate donations increase ads, which increase information, which are actually vital to the democratic process. For these reasons we urge a con ballot.
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