Memo: Citizens United heads into “terrible twos”

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To Editorial Writers and Interested Journalists
From: Adam Smith, Public Campaign Action Fund
Date: January 20, 2012
Re: Citizens United heads into “terrible twos”

On the second anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, we are seeing a dramatic increase in outside spending in elections. Roughly $30 million has been spent by super PACs to influence the Republican presidential primary, according to a recent analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

As Public Campaign Action Fund’s David Donnelly told the Washington Post, "There are probably fewer than 100 people who are fueling 90 percent of this outside money right now. When you think about the amazing impact that this small number of people have on deciding the election, on the information that people will have on who to vote for, it’s mind-boggling."

It’s no wonder then, that new polling shows that the American people strongly believe that Washington is controlled by big money interests.

It’s time to revisit the Court's Citizens United decision, look at an amendment the Constitution to say that corporations are not people and money is not speech, and pass common sense, reasonable reforms to put everyday people back in charge.

Here are the key points from the poll released yesterday by Democracy Corps and Public Campaign Action Fund:

  • Voters are intensely angry with lobbyists and the influence of money in politics. Two thirds of voters give lobbyists a negative rating on our thermometer scale, more than half (54 percent) give them intensely negative ratings. A large majority (57 percent) give money in politics a negative rating, nearly half (49 percent) are intensely negative about the influence of money in politics.
  • Americans strongly oppose the Citizens United decision and a majority (55 percent) believe that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as individuals
  • Voters believe that the system is stacked against them—addressing the role of big money in politics is about giving ordinary voters a voice in Washington again. A strong majority (60 percent) say that the middle class will not catch a break in this economy until we reduce the influence of lobbyists, big banks, and big donors.
  • By a two-to-one margin, voters say reducing the influence of lobbyists and money in politics will be an important factor in their vote. Swing voters, independents in particular, fall strongly on the side of reform, making campaign finance reform a potentially consequential election issue.
  • Voters are broadly supportive of campaign finance reform. They support a plan that would replace the current system of big contributions with one built on small donations and matching funds.

If members of Congress don’t heed the call from voters who are angry about money in politics, lobbyists, and corporate cronyism in Washington, they’ll be placing their own jobs at risk. Addressing money-in-politics reform is becoming a voting issue for more and more Americans in 2012. Voters want reform and they want it now.