Past Press Releases
Citizens United, the Damage It Caused, and How New York Can Lead The Way Out of the Wreckage
Monday is the third anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. It’s a good time to review the damage it has done, and to understand how New York can lead the nation out of the wreckage.
The 2012 elections were the most expensive in our nation’s history. The cost was more than $6 billion, about the size of South Carolina’s entire state budget.
So who’s coughing up all that dough?
Citizens United amplified the influence of ultrawealthy and corporate interests. Super PACs could circumvent disclosure requirements and donation caps, allowing pay-for-play donations at a scale previously unimaginable.
We know some of the top players: Casino billionaires like Sheldon Adelson, who pledged $100 million to Mitt Romney and would have saved $2 billion under his tax plan. Oil and gas plutocrats like David and Charles Koch, who gave millions to Romney to gut environmental regulations and save up to $8 billion on estate taxes. Media moguls like Fred Eychaner, who boosted Barack Obama with $8.1 million and benefits from looser regulations on the ownership of TV stations and newspapers.
But we don’t know all of them: Thanks to Citizens United, secretive, unlimited donations from ultrawealthy donors and corporations to Super PACs dominate our elections.
Even Richard Posner, the Chicago federal court judge considered the nation’s most influential conservative jurist, has called our political system corrupt because of Citizens United.
“Our political system is pervasively corrupt due to our Supreme Court taking away campaign-contribution restrictions on the basis of the First Amendment,” he said in July.
There’s a way out of this nightmare — and New York can lead the way.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is championing a “fair elections” system with public financing to create a clean option for candidates that limits the influence of big money.
In this system, candidates get public matching funds for small donations, allowing them to rely on regular people, not corporations or the wealthy, to fund their campaigns.
As the biggest state to consider a fair elections system, we’d show the nation the path away from the corporate-controlled politics of Citizens United. Just as Cuomo and the state Legislature led the way on protecting the public from dangerous assault weapons, they can lead the way on protecting us from the dangerous corruption of big money in politics.
New York needs an overhaul in this area. Right now, two-thirds of donations to state candidates come from big corporations or big donors. We spend more than $4 billion a year on corporate tax breaks and special subsidies. We have the worst income inequality in the nation.
We must move mountains to get the Legislature to increase the minimum wage, build affordable housing and invest in job training programs — while corporate lobbyists get new tax breaks with the snap of a finger.
It’s time we return to government of, by and for the people — not government bought and paid for by special interests. If corporate special interests want to invest in our government, let them pay their fair share of taxes, rather than paying for politicians who will write them special tax breaks.
We need to replace corporate-funded elections with fair elections, specifically campaigns that rely on small donations and limited matching funds.
Fair elections reforms can change the game: with a 6-to-1 matching rate of public funds, a $25 contribution from a local supporter expands into $175 in campaign funds.
States and localities that have tried fair elections, including Connecticut and New York City, have found that lawmakers raise more from constituents and small business owners, and less from special interests and corporations. And lawmakers have found they have more time and more resources to work for the good of their communities, rather than for the good of a few big corporations.
Citizens United made big corporate donors and the very rich more powerful, while fair elections reforms make small donors and regular people more powerful.
If we’re going to move our country toward economic fairness and real democracy, we need the Legislature to join Cuomo to pass fair elections, strict disclosure rules and tough enforcement. It would be another big leap toward making New York a leader on the most difficult issues of our times.
Michael Kink is executive director of the Strong Economy For All Coalition. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Dave Palmer is executive director of the Center for Working Families.
Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/United-we-donate-4206954.php#ixzz2IYqp0YrO