Undoing a century of campaign finance law: It could happen this fall

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It was one of the last acts of the Supreme Court’s term that ended in June, but you probably didn’t hear much about it. However, when it all shakes out, the result could be the undoing of a century of campaign finance laws — laws that help curb the influence of big corporations over government.

In June, the Supremes decided not to rule on a narrow campaign finance case (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission) and instead pushed it to September 9.  In a rare move, the court decided to reopen two other landmark cases, one of which validated the core principle of the landmark McCain-Feingold law, indicating that it may roll back the current limits on corporate giving to candidates.

Corporations already have a pretty strong grip on Washington politicians because of all the money the spend on lobbyists and fundraisers. Rolling back the current limits, though, would mean that corporate money could flow unchecked into congressional coffers.

You think it’s hard to get the people’s perspective heard now on issues like climate change and health care? The public likely would be completely shut out if the Supremes do what they are indicating they may do.

Reporters are gradually waking up to the case, and a couple of columns have been written recently that detail the potential implications quite eloquently. Check out Ruth Marcus’ Aug. 2 column in The Washington Post  (she rightly notes that the fallout of a decision upending campaign finance laws could be disastrous) and Adam Cohen’s Aug. 11 piece – which adds a nice historical perspective – in The New York Times.

Check back here and on our main site, www.citizen.org, to get the latest information.