June 29, 2009
Fate of Decades-Long Effort to Stop Corporate Money From Dominating Political Campaigns Rests With U.S. Supreme Court
Statement of Scott L. Nelson, Attorney, Public Citizen*
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today to hear arguments again in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission raises the stakes in this case considerably. The Court now has asked whether it should overrule two of its landmark campaign finance rulings, Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, both of which held that corporations can be prohibited from spending their own cash in direct support of or opposition to political candidates.
The Citizens United case is no longer just about whether "Hillary: The Movie" falls under the funding restrictions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, but about whether the entire decades-long effort to keep corporate (and union) money from dominating our political campaigns is to be unceremoniously scrapped. A decision to overrule Austin and McConnell would transform our elections into free-for-alls with massive corporate and union spending flooding the airwaves and officeholders beholden to the deep pockets that promoted their candidacies.
*Scott L. Nelson is a senior attorney with Public Citizen Litigation Group and submitted a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the FEC in the Citizens United case on behalf of the principal congressional sponsors of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.