“Citizens United opened the floodgates, and our democracy is drowning”
January 20, 2015
Jan. 21 is the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United vs. FEC, which said that corporations, unions and other associations could give unlimited amounts of money to try to elect candidates of their choice so long as they don’t coordinate their activities with their chosen candidates.
“The Supreme Court, in its Citizens United decision, opened the floodgates, and our democracy is drowning,” says Matt Rothschild, the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. “Here in Wisconsin, we’ve seen the consequences.”
Rothschild pointed out that the Koch brothers, through their group Americans for Prosperity, have poured $5.5 million into the state since that decision, not only to help Gov. Scott Walker but to campaign successfully against two school board members in Kenosha. “They are reaching way far down ticket to distort our democratic process,” Rothschild said.
He also mentioned that Gogebic Taconite, the out-of-state mining company that is proceeding with a controversial mine in Iron County, gave $700,000 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin during the recalls. GTac helped draft the mining bill that the Republicans subsequently pushed through. “Corporations should not be writing our laws, and they should not be paying our legislators to pass them, either,” Rothschild said.
A third example Rothschild cited was the school privatization groups, which spent $850,000 last fall to elect Republicans. “It’s no coincidence that the legislature is moving forward on this issue,” he said.
“It’s not just corporations that are inundating the political system,” Rothschild said. “It’s also the ultra-rich.”
He pointed to Judge Rudolph Randa’s decision last Sept. 5 lifting the $10,000 ceiling on the total amount than any individual could give in one election season in Wisconsin. Randa cited Citizens United in his decision, and now the sky is the limit. After that decision, Diane Hendricks, the co-founder of ABC Supply in Beloit, sent the Republican Party of Wisconsin $1 million. Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate, sent $650,000 to the Republican Party of Wisconsin. And Lynde Uihlein, a liberal philanthropist in Milwaukee, sent $1 million to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.
“This is a bipartisan problem,” Rothschild said. “Politics is now a game that is played almost exclusively by corporations and billionaires and multi-multi-millionaires. The average citizen of Wisconsin has been aced out of the game. Citizens United is trying to reduce us all to bystanders.”
“Fortunately,” said Rothschild, “many people in Wisconsin aren’t standing idly by. They’ve joined a national movement to get money out of politics, to overturn Citizens United, and amend the U.S. Constitution to say, once and for all, that corporations are not persons and that money is not speech.”
Rothschild noted that in 54 villages, towns, cities, or counties across the state, the voters or their elected officials have passed resolutions, by overwhelming margins, favoring such a constitutional amendment.
“This, fundamentally, is the only way to rescue our democracy,” said Rothschild.