Home | About | Donate

Why Overturning Citizens United Isn’t Enough

Why Overturning Citizens United Isn’t Enough

Adam Eichen

Amidst all the other headline-grabbing pronouncements in Wednesday night’s debate, Hillary Clinton mentioned the importance of overturning Citizens United. While this is encouraging, focusing on Citizens United is not enough; our campaign finance system was broken well before 2010. If Clinton is serious about reducing the role of money in politics, she should appoint Supreme Court justices willing to revisit Buckley v.

Exposing the American Government:

1 Like

“in Wednesday night’s debate, Hillary Clinton mentioned the importance of overturning Citizens United.”
If Clinton was serious about that she could have used her campaign and the DNC’s vast resources, along with their control of the media to push for ballot initiatives to stop this instead of just talk about it. Bernie too for that matter…


How so? A ballot initiative can’t overturn a SCOTUS decision.

The state law in many states, including mine, is that same sex couples can’t marry. Of course, they can, despite that law which was passed as a ballot initiaitive. And then there’s abortion, which is still illegal in many states, and those laws don’t supercede the SCOTUS ruling.

1 Like

Just as the US has moved further from being a democracy during the past 8 years it will continue that trajectory irrespective of whether Clinton or Trump move into the White House on January 20.

Clinton is owned by the oligarchs who demand nothing less than the ongoing transfer of wealth from the 99% to the 1% until the 99% own nothing in a the 1%'s neofeudal paradise.

Just as Saint Ronny did, Trump will turn over domestic and foreign issues to the right wing hordes and his VP (Pence the theocrat in Trump’s case) and see where the chips land, while Trump dedicates his time to “making America great again”, whatever that means ?

1 Like

You’re correct of course that federal law always supercedes state and local law.
But there must be some bright DNC or Hillary lawyer somewhere who could file a case that would eventually end up in the Supreme Court which would nullify the Citizens United ruling.
After all the Dredd Scott decision is no longer applicable, right?

“Our democracy is a fragile thing which depends upon accepting the rules of the game.”

And that is why our democracy is broken - the “extreme center” elites, corporate and otherwise, did not accept the rules of the game and, having gained ownership of congress in recent decades, have had the rules changed in their favor. Trump is a sideshow - a danger, no doubt, but no more so than a George Bush or Ronald Reagan, who both have blood on their hands.


Yes, there would have to be another case, but someone would bring it if the conditions looked right.

I’m not really sure what the pont of this article is, to be honest, other than to whine a bit. I’d have to look it up to be sure, but didn’t the four more liberal Justices vote against both the CU decision and the Holder decision? Another Justice in the same mold would likely vote the same as the minority did on both issues.

I mean, I could play the same game the writer here did and say we need to go back even further and rid ourselves of the concept of corporate personhood, but I’ll take a win where it can be had.

1 Like

I worked on campaign finance initiatives in the 1990s and public financing afterward. But I came to realize that even public financing isn’t enough.

Wealth = Power (more or less).

Preventing wealthy people from using the political system to their selfish benefit is like trying to hold back a tsunami. The deluge of money will swamp any sea wall. And, the rich have so many other ways of tailoring our laws and institutions to their needs. If you’re feeling overly optimistic, try reading Jane Mayer’s Dark Money, where she documents the think tanks, endowed chairs, front groups, along with direct and indirect campaign spending that the (largely rabidly right-wing) billionaires have used to further their agendas. And she could write Dark Money II to document how the wealthy own the media, which daily gets concentrated into fewer and fewer filthy rich hands.

Back when some Supreme Court justices were still human, Louis Brandeis said:

“We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”


Those who say they want to overturn Citizens United want to keep the corporate power structure in place with this slight modification.

Those who want to change the system talk about ending corporate personhood, a much broader goal.


Absolutely agree. The entire notion of whether the corporation itself remains viable as, say, opposed to destructive, needs to be taken up.
No body of law, entity, institution or (especially) politician will want to do that.

As Justices Scalia and Thomas, and others too, would point out, in the understanding of the Founding Fathers and original intent of the text, Federal Law doesn’t always supercede state and local law. And we have a 10th Amendment affirming that. Otherwise we wouldn’t have any meaningful concept of Federalism.

That was then, and now-a-days a lot of people act like WashDC enacts, decrees and determines, and the rest of us have to obey. Take the War on Drugs as an example. Are we better off for WashDC making those decisions?

(But in contrast, a different way that people are defying WashDC…)
– A year ago the Wall Street Journal noted that the U of TX was effectively ignoring Justice Kennedy’s decision in a discriminatory/diversity admissions policy case, and had been brought to court again. The WSJ urged Kennedy to affirm his early decision. - Instead Kennedy blinked and let the U of TX continue giving minorities admission advantages over other students.

You and several others are thinking of law as ‘a la carte’, picking and choosing progressive laws that you like, and paying no attention to how they are enacted, or whether the people actually want those laws.
– Even Ruth Bader Ginsburg is better than that. Though she is pro-abortion rights, she has remarked that Roe v. Wade was an unfortunate decision, and that our politics wouldn’t be so bad today if the case hadn’t occurred and the then existing trend to liberalize abortion laws had been allowed to go ahead.

Speaking of Citizens United did anyone else get a push poll from End Citizens United calling you a Trump supporter for voting Stein in their previous poll? Does anyone know more about End Citizens United? If they are push polling for Clinton then it seems they may be supporters of Citizens United and not trying to end it at all.

You wouldn’t be playing the game the author is by abolishing the SCOTUS-created doctrine of corporate persons. That is the real issue on which all these other cases stand. Anything less is a con game. As long as corporations have constitutional rights intended for human beings, they will continue to use their vast treasuries to acquire more human rights in the courts–the pattern they have followed since 1886.

1 Like

Not by ballot initiative (and there’s no mechanism for a national referendum), but by example sure would have been nice, as Bernie indeed did.

There are also bills and Constitutional amendments already before Congress to overturn CU.

I strongly disagree. DJT has never had to swear to “uphold and defend the Constitution” (held public office), and i don’t think he has any idea what taking that oath would require of him, or the capacity to learn. And Mike Pence is no Dick Cheney.

Don’t leave out ALEC, which is constructing a new federalism by buying up the even-more-available state legislators and move laws from state to state to restrict the lives of people and open doors for corporations and the few who benefit from them, siphoning profits out of the economy and into personal reserve wealth.

The subtitle is “Democrats Fighting for Reform”:

But indeed their focal purpose is a Constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood.