The Huffington Post
By: Fred Wertheimer
In 1789, the Founding Fathers created a constitutional system of government by the people.
In 2010, five Supreme Court Justices — Roberts, Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas and Alito — changed it to a constitutional system of government by millionaires, billionaires and corporations.
In the Citizens United case, these five Justices rode roughshod over Justice Louis Brandeis’s wise pronouncement that in our system of government “the most important office, and the one which all of us can and should fill, is that of private citizen.”
In the constitutional system envisioned by our founders 225 years ago, individuals get one vote. In the system created by the Supreme Court in 2010, Sheldon Adelson gets 100 million votes. Tom Steyer gets 73 million votes.
That’s not the way our constitutional system is supposed to work, notwithstanding the patently undemocratic views of the Roberts majority. Citizens must and will fight back.
The 2014 national election left us with a campaign finance system in shambles. The political money that flooded the 2014 election was a disaster for ordinary Americans.
Never has so much money from so few people been so pervasive in our congressional elections. Never has so much money in huge contributions, corporate funds and secret donations flooded our congressional elections and created so much opportunity for influence buying and selling. Never has the foundational constitutional principle of one person, one vote been so undermined by a Supreme Court majority that apparently believes money is king.
Citizens United will go down as one of the worst Supreme Court decisions ever. It will not stand the test of time.
Never has our political system been so wrecked by five Supreme Court Justices who are “Supremely” naïve or “Supremely” cynical, or perhaps just “Supremely” both. Never has a Supreme Court declared that the right of a corporation to spend money in elections trumps the right of a nation to protect itself from the corruption of its governmental institutions. Never has a Supreme Court held that buying and selling government influence is constitutionally protected and the American way.
History will hold the five Justices who issued the Citizens United decision accountable for the enormous damage they have done to our democracy and our constitutional system.
Money in politics is a cyclical issue and history tells us that the worse the campaign finance abuses become, the greater is the opportunity for reforming the system. It is time for everyone who cares about the dangers facing our democracy to join the battle — to declare political war on the nation’s corrupt campaign finance system and the elected officeholders who perpetuate the status quo.
Even with the disastrous Citizens United decision, there remain a number of important reforms that can be made within the constitutional framework of this decision.
They include public financing for presidential and congressional elections, new disclosure requirements, ending individual candidate super PACs, strengthening the rules to prohibit coordination, restricting bundling by lobbyists and creating a real campaign finance enforcement agency.
There are other changes that require a new jurisprudence to govern the constitutionality of campaign finance laws.
One such change is a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. An alternative approach is to develop a new constitutional jurisprudence for upholding campaign finance laws to be ready when the current ideological makeup of the Supreme Court shifts.
Some of these changes are incremental, others are fundamental. All will be pursued.
A hostile Supreme Court and an ideological driven Congress mean that the battles that lie ahead to repair our campaign finance system will take time. In this regard, the wisdom of John Gardner, founder of Common Cause and of the modern campaign finance reform movement, should come to mind: “Reform is not for the short winded.”
We know that the American people overwhelmingly object to the rigged influence-money system in Washington. We know that citizens have never accepted political corruption as a way of life in our country and are not about to do so now.
The challenge that lies ahead is to convert deep citizen concern into powerful citizen action.
Fundamental campaign finance reforms to prevent political corruption and promote fair elections have been won by reform supporters in the past. They will be won again in the future.
This fight goes on.