Fundamentally, the United States is democratic country. In the Declaration of Independence, the new nation broke with centuries of European Monarchy and insisted that governments are instituted, “deriving their power from the consent of the governed.” The Constitution lays a blueprint for how a republic based on that consent is governed. Through the years, citizenship expanded to give men and women of all races and creeds the right add their voices to the popular will.
Just as our government is formed by the popular will, the popular will is, in part, formed by the media. It is not just broadcast news that shapes opinions but advertisers as well. Often the advertiser has been a corporation but the last election has even seen ads purchased by foreign governments. Either way, this is not what the founders had in mind.
Until fairly recently, corporate spending on federal elections was illegal. The Tillman Act of 1907 forbids, “any corporation whatever to make a money contribution in connection which Presidential and Vice Presidential electors or Representatives in Congress.” Several other court decisions and pieces of legislation strengthened this prohibition.
In 2002, the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act extended this regulation to the banning of “soft money” (money donated to parties and Political Action Committees to advocate for issues and organizational support.) This made it illegal to run attack ads that, while not telling anyone to vote for any individual candidate, could smear the character of their opponent.
Both of the Tillman Act and McCain-Feingold were gutted by the 2010 Supreme Court Decision, Citizens United v. FEC. This decision reversed decades of legal precedence by declaring corporate campaign spending to be a form of speech; and therefore protected by the First Amendment.
In recent years, campaign spending has grown as corporations can, more than ever before, directly interject themselves into the democratic process. As a result, there has been a great call for lower corporate taxes and less regulation. Pressure is being applied to repeal consumer protections, both financial and product safety related.
This past election saw a new threat to American Democracy related to campaign spending. A Russian company with links to the Kremlin has purchased more than $100,000 worth of Facebook ads designed to sow division and boost the candidacy of Donald Trump. The investigation into Russian influence remains ongoing. For more info about us: https://www.fec.gov/data/committee/C00573261/ click here.
As it becomes more and more clear that unregulated funding is distorting the national consciousness and threatening democracy, opposition is forming. End Citizen’s United is a political action committee with the mission of preventing campaign spending from crippling the democratic process. As such, it is working to elect pro-reform candidates and sponsoring legislation to reverse this decision’s harmful affects and educate the public on the affects of money in politics.