Harvard Business School professor explains why Citizens United ruling is a toxic source of ‘crony capitalism’ that enabled ‘American oligarchy'
2020 marks the tenth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, a 5-4 decision that equated political spending with free speech and wiped out much of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (a.k.a. the McCain/Feingold bill). The Citizens United ruling was a major setback for campaign finance reform, and opponents of the decision are calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse it.
American Promise is a nonprofit that would like to overturn Citizens United via a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Leah Field, managing director for American Promise, told Law & Crime, “The 28th Amendment would allow Congress and the states to set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections and ballot measures. An amendment creates the constitutional basis necessary to create legislation limiting the influence of big money in elections and is a more permanent solution than can be offered by legislation alone.”
Field added, “Like most amendments, the 28th Amendment creates the fundamental structure to enable the people and their representatives to enact legislation to limit dark money and unlimited election spending from distorting elections.”
Amending the U.S. Constitution is not an easy task by any means, but Field believes that American Promise has a good shot at getting a 28th Amendment passed during the 2020s.
“American Promise is working on a ten-year strategy to pass the (28th) Amendment by 2026,” Field explained. “Four years into our strategy, we have hundreds of thousands of supporters in all 50 states, more than 200 Amendment co-sponsors in the House, more than 250 signers of the candidate pledge — including more than a dozen 2020 presidential candidates, more than 800 cities and towns that have passed local resolutions, and 20 states (more than half the 38 needed to ratify) that have formally called on Congress to pass an amendment.”
Malcolm Salter of the Harvard Business School discussed Citizens United with Law & Crime, asserting that the decision has promoted “crony capitalism.”
Salter told Law & Crime, “Only campaign finance reform can contain the cancer that is attacking the body of democratic capitalism in the country today. That cancer is called crony capitalism.”
Salter added, “The Cato Institute estimates that the federal government spends at least $100 billion annually just on tax breaks and subsidies. Such deals rely on targeted campaign contributions and massive lobbying operations. Seventy to 80 percent of funding for congressional campaigns comes from large contributors–mainly wealthy individuals and corporations. And, since 2000, businesses and trade groups have spent 60 times more on lobbying than labor. This is truly a picture of an American oligarchy at work."