A primer on the Citizens United decision and what it means in 2012 elections (video)

As the 2012 election season begins with recalls and other federal and state contests, it is crucial that all voters on all political sides understand what has happened with the 2010 United States Supreme Court’s 5-4 radical conservative majority decision in the Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission case, where it was an extreme exercise of judicial activism and overruled past judicial decisions to overrule precedent (stare decisis) and allowing an overbearing flood of corporate spending in federal and state campaigns that is untraceable. It’s as if corporations have the same freedom of expression as people.

Here is some information on the documentary, which goes into detail about the Citizens United decision:

On the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission, an examination of the road that led to this controversial decision. Featuring interviews with James Bopp, John Nichols, Bob Edgar, Kathay Feng, Doug Clopp, Mark Crispin Miller, Jessica Levinson, Lee Fang, Brad Friedman.


The United States Supreme Court 2010 decision on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission had dissented opinions from Justice Stevens, Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer and Justice Sotomayor. Justice Stevens stated:

At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.

The Supreme Court Citizens United decision amounts to the assertion that any limitation on corporate contributions that would have the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) author legislation addressing their specific corporate interests is unconstitutional, thus overturning the which were in place since 1907 Tillman Act, passed by Congress:

All contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose should be forbidden by law; directors should not be permitted to use stockholders’ money for such purposes; and, moreover, a prohibition of this kind would be, as far as it went, an effective method of stopping the evils aimed at in corrupt practices acts. Not only should both the National and the several State Legislatures forbid any officer of a corporation from using the money of the corporation in or about any election, but they should also forbid such use of money in connection with any legislation save by the employment of counsel in public manner for distinctly legal services.


To complicate all this even further, it was South Carolina Senator Benjamin Ryan “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman that the campaign finance restrictions of the Tillman Act were named after. He was also responsible for the first Jim Crow laws and enabling the White Supremacy movement in the 19th Century with comments calling for the murder of “negros” and to “keep the white race at the top of the heap”. His intent on controlling corporate campaign contributions was based on his hatred of the power of “Yankee” industrialists such as John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and J.P. Morgan, who were less extreme on racial matters.

The Citizens United decision essentially implies that corporations are people. There are great resources like Move To Amend where people can be informed and do actionable efforts to try to overturn this extremist attack on the American people. Watchdog groups like Open Secrets tracks how the decision is affecting and infecting the democratic process. Additionally, the Fair Elections Now Act is possibly going to be enacted as long as grassroots efforts are vigilant.

SuperPACs are already hitting the airwaves in Wisconsin and beyond with political ads that usually defy facts and intend to generate confusion, distortion and lies. There will be more on who they are and where the money comes from will be featured as this election year rolls along.