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Cause for Concern

More than 40 Percent of Hill Staffers Say Lobbyists Wield More Power Because of Citizens United

May 2011 — An informal survey of congressional staffers suggests that the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has left significant numbers of congressional staffers fearing retaliation against their bosses if they act in ways that displease lobbyists.

Citizens United lifted the century long ban on corporations spending money for messages expressly intended to influence the outcomes of elections. The opinion permitted corporations to spend unlimited sums to influence elections, provided that they do not coordinate their expenditures with federal candidates.

Public Citizen’s survey was sent to the e-mail addresses of 3,401 congressional staff members, split nearly equally between those who work for Republicans and Democrats. Responses were received from 80 staff members, of whom 70 percent work for Democrats. Survey recipients were asked if they believe Citizens United has strengthened the influence of lobbyists in the policymaking process; if they personally feel a need to respond differently to lobbyists in the wake of the opinion; and to describe why they think the opinion has or has not affected the relationships between lobbyists and congressional staff members.

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