Big Money in Elections
"There is a corruption at the heart of American politics, caused by the dependence of Congressional candidates on funding from the tiniest percentage of citizens. That's the argument at the core of this blistering talk by legal scholar Lawrence Lessig. With rapid-fire visuals, he shows how the funding process weakens the Republic in the most fundamental way, and issues a rallying bipartisan cry that will resonate with many in the U.S. and beyond."
"After decades of political corruption, our votes don't count quite like they used to. Right before our eyes, we're being outmuscled by another form of political power - money. These days if we want something in Washington, there's a sure-fire way to get it - throw a congressperson a fundraiser. Campaigns are expensive, really expensive. Politicians are desperate to get their hands on the money they need to pay for their next campaign to stay in office. They know that 94% of the time, the candidate who raises the most money wins."
Citizens United v FEC
"While the soaring spending on elections -- by unions, corporations and individuals -- is well known by this point, what is less well understood is how Citizens United drove massive amounts of cash into the non-profit political world, a world where disclosure is not required."
"The result has been a deluge of cash poured into so-called super PACs – particularly single-candidate PACs, or political action committees – which are only nominally independent from the candidates they support. What’s more, the legal protections for corporations mean much of this spending, known as "dark money," never has to be publicly disclosed."
"Corporations and unions - they're people just like you and me, but without mouths, so they can only talk through their wallet-cords. It's a nice theory. Now companies are allowed to spend as much money as they want directly producing campaign ads for candidates."
James Bopp, architect of Citizens United
"The Terre Haute, Indiana-based attorney, who was literally laughed at by a judge when he made his first arguments in Citizens United, is now the lead lawyer in the most prominent of a series of lawsuits attempting to further destroy political contribution limits."
"One thing no one can dispute is Bopp's impressive record in the courts. Even before Citizens United, he'd won a Supreme Court ruling striking down big chunks of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law. He was instrumental in Bush v. Gore, and he successfully beat back a massive lawsuit from the FEC alleging that the Christian Coalition had illegally campaigned on behalf of candidates including Oliver North, Jesse Helms, and Newt Gingrich. And now he's pursuing dozens of other cases that, if successful, could eliminate caps on political contributions, allow campaigns to hide their donors from public view, and kill public-financing laws across the nation."
"When the Constitution was written and corporations were part of the government, having duties to perform to the satisfaction of the people, the primary technique for enforcing minority rule was to establish that only a tiny percentage could qualify as “We the People” – in other words, that most people were subhuman. As different groups of people struggled to become persons under the law, the corporation acquired rights belonging to We the People and ultimately became superhuman, still maintaining an artificially elevated status for a small number of people."
"For 100 years, corporations were not given any constitutional right of political speech; in fact, quite the contrary. In 1907, following a corporate corruption scandal involving prior presidential campaigns, Congress passed a law banning corporate involvement in federal election campaigns. That wall held firm for 70 years."
"The law also gives corporations special legal status: limited liability, special rules for the accumulation of assets and the ability to live forever. These rules put corporations in a privileged position in producing profits and aggregating wealth. Their influence would be overwhelming with the full array of rights that people have."
Big Money and Minorities
"Elections funded primarily by wealthy, white donors mean that candidates as a whole are less likely to prioritize the needs of people of color; and that candidates of color are less likely to run for elected office, raise less money when they do, and are less likely to win. Ultimately, people of color are not adequately represented by elected officials."
"Political donations are deeply racialized, with more than 90 percent of contributions above $200 made to presidential campaigns and super PACs in 2012 coming from majority-white neighborhoods. A recent analysis by the Brookings Institution found that all of the most politically active U.S. billionaires, with possible exception of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who is of Persian-American origin, are white."