Four years ago today the Supreme Court issued its ruling in the Citizens United case. The case had three major components that, taken together, have made it nearly impossible to keep corporate money out of politics. First, it found that free speech rights are about the speech, not the speaker (in other words, it doesn’t matter who’s speaking, but that speaking is taking place.) Second, the case reconfirmed the notion of corporate personhood. Corporate personhood is a constitutional doctrine dating back to the mid 19th century, but Citizens United reconfirms the constitutionality of it. Finally, the case finds that since political speech is the most important First Amendment right, constraint of free speech must meet strict scrutiny. Citizens United basically allowed corporate financing of elections to be protected as free speech.
It was an outrageous ruling that unleashed a flood of money in our political system. According to data compiled by OpenSecrets.org outside expenditures for federal elections skyrocketed after the ruling. Independent expenditures in 2010, an off year election, were almost 1.5 times greater than in 2008, a hotly contested presidential election cycle. The difference? Citizens United. But the effect really became clear in the 2012 election. Independent expenditures in 2012 were nearly 5 times as great as they were in 2010, surpassing $1 Billion.
I've written before about how what the Koch Brothers are trying to do here in the U.S. is being replicated globally through the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). We know the agenda being pushed by this outside money is the agenda of corporate empowerment at the expense of working families, the environment and public health. It’s the same agenda being pushed in the TPP. And the same interests are pushing it. Over 600 corporations are helping to write the TPP, the same companies whose personhood was affirmed by Citizens’ United.
We have to fight back against this agenda and against the means being used to push it.
We have to defeat fast track the mechanism that will allow the TPP to slide through Congress.