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Citizens United: now what?

February 1, 2010

Scott Brown’s win in the Massachusetts special election to fill Sen. Ted Kennedy’s seat, followed closely by the Supreme Court’s ruling that “the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections,” caught much of the country off guard with the unexpected shift from the dominant political leaning of late. Both of these incidences broke not only with the change in political climate we’ve experienced over the last year, but marked breaks with much longer traditions. Republican Scott Brown replaced the Democratic senator Ted Kennedy, who held his position in Massachusetts for nearly half a century; the Citizens United ruling “overturned more than a century of law” (in President Obama’s words) which limited the impact of corporations on elections.

Judging from my friends’ statuses on Gmail Chat you would have thought the world — or at least the U.S. — was coming to an end. I should make the disclaimer that these are many of the same friends who broke into a spontaneous rendition of the national anthem on election night last year, after pouring out onto the street to celebrate with (most of) the rest of Haverford‘s student body. That is to say, it shouldn’t be hard to guess their political leaning.

After the dust settled, one of my fellow Haverfordians, Alex Kaplan, revisited the Supreme Court ruling to examine it more objectively. While he notes at the outset that “the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizen’s United didn’t go as far in overturning…[an] essential aspect of electoral democracy as it potentially could have,” he quickly states his position that “the reach, purpose, and timing of the decision is shamelessly transparent and will undoubtedly affect the already skewed balance of American elections.”

The rest of the piece, which I recommend you read in full, discusses possible responses to the Supreme Court’s move, which many feel puts too much power in the hands of corporations to influence the outcome of our nation’s elections. I will be interested to see the responses of the administration and Congress, as well as grasstops and grassroots movements.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 2, 2010 4:01 pm

    A possibility that your fellow Haverfordian does not mention, but that has been widely discussed and ought to be included in any discussion of this topic, is this: Congress could enact a law redefining corporations, and in the process of redefining them, clarifying that they cannot be considered as persons in the Constitutional sense.This would be faster and more likely to succeed than the amendment process. And it would be more effective than setting up public financing side-by-side with unlimited corporate spending.

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