It seems that the Supremes court ruling in Citizens United Vs. FEC has been all over the news, especially now that current Attorney General Steve Bullock has decided to make it his number one campaign issue. But it seems that a lot of people have the wrong idea about what the Citizens United decision allows, and the effect it will have.
The first misconception is that it will allow corporations to “buy” elections, which is totally not true. The FEC still has contribution maximums even from corporations.
Which means there is a limit on the amount of money that a corporation can give directly to a campaign. What FEC allows is for unlimited spending in other ways, such as issue advertisements. But advertisements are not “buying an election”. As with any advertisement it is the personal responsibility of the consumer to find out who paid for it (something made easier by the last few seconds of the ad) and to research and decide the validity of the ads content. If these organizations influence elections the problem is not the corporation, but the people who blindly follow whatever they are told. To say that these corporations are the make or break of an election, is to say that either the message they broadcast is truthful and rings true with voters, or that the voters themselves have been unduly influenced. Although I’m constantly confronted with counter examples I like to believe that the American people are smart and capable of making informed decisions, to say that they have been unduly influenced is simply false.
In addition this is not a one sided issue, for every ad there is an ad on the other side. For every argument there is a rebuttal. It would be naïve to assume that only one party or only one organization engages in spending money on issue ads for things they feel are important. Which means that one side will never be able to influence voters without them having been exposed to the opposite side as well. In addition the ruling gives unions the right to spend as much money as they want as well, and you better believe that for any conservative advertisement at least one union would be willing to spend money on a counter ad.
The Decision of the Court may have put it best:
“When government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought,” “This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.”
This ruling is about government intervening in what are, and are not allowed to be told and who is and who isn’t allowed to give us that information. If we hope to avoid an Orwellian dystopia perhaps we should be less worried about censoring the message and more worried about educating our children to be intelligent consumers of information.