Jan. 18, 2011  

Citizens United: One Year Later

Public Citizen Documents the Fallout of Pivotal U.S. Supreme Court Decision

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A year has passed since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and the damage is clear, according to a new Public Citizen report.

 The tally:
-   Outside groups are making record expenditures (more than four times as much spent in the 2010 midterm election cycle as in the last midterm election cycle in 2006);
  -   Congressional staffs and lawmakers are intimidated by corporate lobbyists like never before;
-   Laws designed to protect the political system from the corrupting influence of money have been rendered dead in 24 states; and
-   Power has shifted in dozens of congressional seats in races won with the help of undisclosed outside money.

 “The outrageous, misguided and illogical Citizens United decision has empowered corporations and endangered our democracy,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “As our report shows, secretive corporate and billionaire donors exerted an outsized influence over Election 2010. Their spending now casts a pall over all lawmaking, because any members of Congress who challenge corporate interests know they now risk facing a barrage of attack ads in the next election. And all parties agree that 2010 was just a warm-up for 2012. This is no way to run a democracy. That’s why a growing movement is working for passage of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.”

The 76-page report, “12 Months After: The Effects of Citizens United on Elections and the Integrity of the Legislative Process,” reveals a year’s worth of damage done by the court’s decision:

• Spending by outside groups jumped to $294.2 million in the 2010 election cycle from just $68.9 million in the 2006 cycle. The uncharacteristically high spending in 2010 presages blockbuster spending in the upcoming 2012 elections;
• Nearly half of the money spent ($138.5 million, or 47.1 percent) came from only 10 groups;
• Groups that did not provide any information about their sources of money
collectively spent $135.6 million - 46.1 percent of the total spent by outside groups
during the election cycle;
• Two “Crossroads” groups formed by Republican strategist Karl Rove combined to spend $38.2 million, more than any single group. Next was the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at  $31.2 million; and
• Of 75 congressional contests in which partisan power changed hands, spending by outside groups favored the winning candidate in 60 contests.

The report also provides firsthand information about the mood in the halls of Congress and how staffs now react when they see corporate lobbyists coming to call. One staffer summarized the dangers posed to the integrity of the legislative process by the Citizens United decision when he asked at a congressional briefing sponsored by Public Citizen and other groups: “How do I say ‘no’ to a deep-pocketed corporate lobbyist who now has all the resources necessary to defeat my boss in the next election?”
 
To read the report, visit https://www.citizen.org/our-work/government-reform/articles/12-months-after.

To learn about rallies, protests and other events scheduled to mark the one-year anniversary of the decision, visit https://www.citizen.org/our-work/government-reform/articles/citizens-united-v-fec-anniversary-events-across-country.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.