January 17, 2012 by David K. Sutton
Are Republicans Rethinking Support For ‘Citizens United’?
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission – known colloquially as ‘Citizens United’ – was a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court on January 21, 2010. It has had a profound influence on the 2012 presidential election. This ruling has allowed unlimited and anonymous money to influence our election process and ultimately our democracy.
The Supreme Court ruled – wrongly in my opinion, and the opinion of many, including President Obama – that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the government from imposing limits to campaign spending by corporations and unions. Plainly spoken this ruling states that money equals speech.
Citizens United is a conservative, non-profit political organization. The amazing part of this story is that this landmark ruling by the Supreme Court was the result of a much less lofty challenge by Citizens United regarding their ability to promote a documentary called Hillary. This documentary, critical of Hillary Clinton, was produced by Citizens United. Before this Supreme Court decision, Citizens United was barred from airing and promoting the documentary based on the McCain-Feingold Act of 2002.
Republicans have been near unanimous in their support of the Citizens United ruling. Mitt Romney’s now famous quote ‘corporations are people my friend‘ wasn’t in direct response to Citizens United but it uses the language of this ruling; that corporations are people and have the same free speech rights as citizens. But it appears Republican support for this ruling might be showing signs of weakness. Just last week Republican Senator John McCain said, “one of the worst decisions I have ever seen”, in describing his opinion of the Citizens United ruling. It should be noted that he is of course the ‘McCain’ of the McCain-Feingold Act which was trumped by the Citizens United ruling, so his opinion might not represent a major shift in thinking among Republicans.
However, Dan Rather suggests Republicans may indeed change their tune and rethink their support of Citizens United. In a segment on The Rachel Maddow Show, he said “candidates don’t necessarily control their own campaign anymore, nor does the state Republican party, nor does the national Republican party.” What Mr. Rather is suggesting is that candidates will lose control of their own campaigns due to the influence of incredibly powerful and wealthy individuals. He went on to say, “…there’s going to be a realization this is terrible for America because it fits right into the argument that has been made increasingly left, right, by Tea Party people as well as the Occupy Wall Street people. Do we still have a government of the people, by the people, for the people? Or, do we have a government that’s for big corporations and super wealthy people?…”
Watch the entire Dan Rather segment of TRMS below:
photo by Brendan Hoffman via Flickr