Constitutional Corruption: The Aftermath of Citizens United v. FEC
20 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2013 Last revised: 30 Sep 2015
Date Written: December 18, 2012
There is a great irony that currently pesters the political forefront of America. It echoes across television networks, resonates throughout the radio, and advertises itself around the internet as the words of American politicians and candidates who repeatedly avow their commitment to “getting back to the issues.” This is what the people wanted. This is the direction they asked for; this is not the direction they received. Since the 2010 Supreme Court case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, “the issues” have been plunged further into a monetary power struggle, where they are being drowned out by the Super PAC. After planning to air its documentary Hillary on then-Senator Hillary Clinton, Citizens United experienced legal trouble before broadcasting the documentary due to regulations put in place by Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. As a result, the company sought an injunction from the DC District Court to permit the airing of its film. Rejected at the district level, Citizens United appealed the case to the Supreme Court where it ended in a highly contentious 5-4 ruling.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Citizens United, overturning McConnell v. FEC, ignoring precedent set in Buckley v. Valeo, and declaring the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act unconstitutional for the restrictions it placed on corporate independent campaign expenditures.
To begin, this paper will explore the evolution of money in American politics and will discuss Supreme Court precedent with regard to campaign finance. From here, it will consider the connections of earlier case law to the Citizens ruling and show how the Supreme Court falsely characterized corporations as equivalent to individuals. Next, the paper will demonstrate that the “facial” review of the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act was incorrect and should have instead been an “as-applied” review. Finally, the essay will conclude by explaining how Citizens United v. FEC fundamentally changed the campaign finance realm by facilitating super-PACs; the institutions that have added egregious amounts of cash to an already money-laden system.
Keywords: superpac, FEC, federal election commission, Citizens United, McConnell, Buckely, Valeo, PAC, political action committee, politics, elections, corruption, money, campaign reform, supreme court, Hillary Clinton
JEL Classification: D72, P1, P2
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation