The Citizens United ruling of January 2010 seems to have woken up a lot of people to the new, cold reality about big money’s dominance of our political system and the inherently political role the Court plays in our democracy. Still, exactly how far-reaching the impact of the ruling will turn out to be is a little unclear. Speculation abounds, some of it based on misconceptions about what the ruling said and what was already legal before. Correcting some of those misperceptions can make the situation seem both less and more dire.
So, it’s a nice topic for our first meeting at a new place and on a new night. Speaking of that, I may have spread some confusion earlier. Coco’s is not going to insist that everyone who attends each meeting spend $10 per night. Rather, they just expect a decent-sized check to come out of that room that’s in some proportion to the number of people being served. I’m afraid meeting for free in a public place every single week is just a tall order and I could not find places that will allow it without some expectation of making a few bucks. So, just do the best you can. Pie and coffee can be had there for about $7, plus tip.
I’ll open the meeting by explaining (1) the legal basis for the Court’s ruling in Citizens, and (2) what the decision changed in campaign finance law and what it did not change. Then we can discuss whether this decision is really as transformative as people say it is and how screwed we really are. I’ll end my introduction by listing some of the ideas for fixing the system to put giant, unlimited, anonymous money at least partway back in the bottle.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- What did the Citizens United ruling say? What law did it change?
- What was the basis for the Court‘s decision? What constitutional and political values did the opinion express?
- Qui bono? What has been the result so far? How might this affect the 2012 election and future elections?
- Does unlimited and anonymous individual and corporate funding of campaigns really threaten the integrity of our elections and our democracy itself? On what evidence?
- With five justices dead set to defend Citizens as settled law, what can be done to put the big money genie back in the bottle without going through the current Court?
- What did the ruling do and not do (change and not change)?
- [Update on 7/22] It’s a little late, but the Wiki entry on campaign finance lays out what’s legal and the history of campaign finance reform very simply (well, as simply as can be done with this stuff!).
- There are many jeremiads against Citizens United. Here is one that I recommend. The decision is even worse than you think.
- The other side: CATO, and a conservative legal expert (I recommend the latter). Also, a series of brief comments from both sides.
- But, don’t blame corporate personhood, per se. I recommend.
- Some ideas for repairing the system: In general. Through Congressional action.
See you all on Monday night!