It’s election season, and the political ads are overwhelming. You can’t escape the mud-slinging, lies and character assassinations. In any political season, negative advertising explodes. But for this mid-term election, it’s worse than ever. For that you can thank the Supreme Court and its ruling called Citizens United, which permits unlimited spending by special interests, in secret, to launch ad campaigns that influence elections.
The Citizens United ruling
The Citizens United ruling was a landmark decision by the Supreme Court declaring that corporate funding of independent political advertising can’t be limited under the First Amendment. Siding with the right wing political group Citizens United, the Supreme Court struck down a provision of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, or the McCain-Feingold Act. The provision barred all corporations, for-profit and non-profit, plus unions from running broadcast, cable or satellite advertising that mentioned a candidate within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary.
How Citizens United polluted the airwaves
With the mid-term election just weeks away, the effects of Citizens United couldn’t be more evident. In every state, the airwaves are overrun with deceptive attack ads sponsored by special interests using front groups with misleading names. Voters don’t know who’s sponsoring these ads. According to the New York Times, even foreign corporations are spending freely to get candidates elected. In a report issued Tuesday by the Center for American Progress, the United States Chamber of Commerce is collecting “dues” to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars from companies in Bahrain, India and Egypt and using the money to buy ads for Republicans.
The consequences of Citizens United
The danger Citizens United brings to our democracy is stated clearly by the Los Angeles Times. The Times writes that in the last two years government has stood up to the abuses of the financial industry and insurance companies. Tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas have been rolled back. Rules to protect clean air and water are being enforced. But thanks to Citizens United, Republicans are hoping to ride a wave of unregulated, out of control political spending to victory. If that happens, the lobbyists will start writing the laws again. The Times says Congress has a responsibility to fix the problem. Regardless, it will be too late to stem the damage already done in this election.
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