People vs Money

People vs Money

Ashli Howell (Staff Writer)

Howell_HeadshotEvery time I hear a fellow college student say something along the lines of, “I don’t vote because my vote doesn’t matter,” I have a mini stroke (figuratively, of course). But, they’re probably right. My single vote alone doesn’t matter that much. That all starts to change though when you consider yourself a part of a larger group. My vote doesn’t matter, but my vote, plus all of my friends, plus all of their friends, plus all of their friends, those votes matter. Collectively, we can work together to change things about our government that we don’t like, right?

That’s what I used to think, in fact, that’s what I used to tell people. Now I’m not so sure. This is, in large part, because the House of Representatives defeated the Citizens United amendment.

Citizens United, a non-profit corporation, wanted to air a ninety minute documentary about Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Presidential Campaign. The documentary was going to be available On Demand only, but was in the 30-day time period before primaries, which the Federal Election Committee (F.E.C.) did not allow. The F.E.C. barred the airing of the documentary, citing the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law. Citizens United sued, certiorari was granted by the Supreme Court, oral arguments were had. Citizens United asserted that the documentary was not limited by the restrictions in McCain-Feingold and that is what they asked the Court decide. Had the Justices ruled in the way that the lawyer for Citizens United suggested during oral arguments, no one would be talking about this today.

That’s not what the opinion, delivered by Justice Kennedy and joined by Justice Roberts, Justice Scalia, Justice Alito, and Justice Thomas, decided. In the majority opinion, the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled that political spending done by corporations is a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Now, all of this happened between March 2009 and January 2010. It has critics and supporters, myself being in the latter category.   However, conservative estimates say that 73 percent of Americans are against the Citizens United Ruling and more liberal ones say that as many as 81 percent of Americans are against the Citizens United ruling. I can’t remember the last time 73 percent of American’s agreed on anything, so I figured the proposed Citizens United Amendment would pass the House and Senate, no problem.

I was wrong; every single House Republican voted against the amendment.

We live in a representative democracy, you’d think that our elected representatives would actually go along with us, but they have reason not to. According to a study published by The Business of American Democracy: Citizens United, Independent Spending and Elections a republicans chance of election increased by six percentage points after the Citizens United ruling. After the ruling in 2010, the study found that Republicans won 53 state legislative bodies, which was 20 more than they had going into the election. Additionally, the study found that spending by outside groups after Citizens United increased significantly between 2010 and 2012. Now, outside groups, nicknamed super PACs are spending nearly $345 million on campaigns and elections. It is important to note that Unions are also able to freely spend on getting their chosen candidate elected. I don’t think this is right either, only around 11 percent of Americans belong to a labor union, they shouldn’t control our elections either.

At this point, overturning Citizens United with a Constitutional Amendment is probably not going to get money out of politics, but it will be a step in the right direction. Money is not speech, especially if it is coming from a metaphysical entity whose sole purpose is to make money. I’d encourage anyone who doesn’t like the idea of a government of the corporation, by the corporation, for profit, to speak up. This is our future and our voices should hold more sway over our representatives than money. Our voices and opinions, no matter how much money we have or don’t have, should count. The House defeating the Citizens United Amendment shows that they don’t. In the words of Abraham Lincoln a, “…government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this earth.”

 

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