When Money Equals Influence, Influence Equals Power
In 2010, the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled in favor of Citizens United in the landmark case Citizens United vs. Federal Election Committee. This decision meant that there would be no limit on independent spending by private corporations to organizations that clearly support but do not coordinate with specific candidates. These organizations have been termed Super PACs. Essentially, corporations are seen through the eyes of the court as people, with the ability to donate however much they see fit. This amount was astronomical in the 2012 presidential election ($567 million).
The Justices’ reasoning in this case was based on the notion that the federal government cannot limit the spending of a private company because it is a violation of their First Amendment right to free speech. This decision clashes with Jewish tradition, which commands “Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent” (Deuteronomy 16:19).
Unlimited amounts of spending by a Super PAC will blind the average American voter from the policy debates at hand because they do not follow the same rules as political campaigns. They can spend large sums of money on negative attack ads that blow minor issues well out of proportion, forcing the opposing candidate to respond, and devoting a lot of airtime to something that should not be a primary concern to voters.
Opponents of the Citizens United decision have been working diligently to undercut its impacts in primary and general elections. Members of Congress and the advocacy community have even discussed a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision. Money-and an exorbitant amount at that-should not have this much influence on our right as American citizens and voters to select our leaders.
Matt Singer is a rising sophomore at Indiana University, majoring in Public Management with a minor in Spanish. Originally from Lexington, Massachusetts, Matt is spending his summer as a Machon Kaplan participant interning at Jews United for Justice.