In January 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Citizens United, allowing for, in essence, corporate personhood. The majority ruled that “Political spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections. While corporations or unions may not give money directly to campaigns, they may seek to persuade the voting public through other means, including ads, especially where these ads were not broadcast.”
The result of the SCOTUS ruling, unfettered spending through super political action committees that allow campaign contributors to remain in the background with little to no accountability regarding where the money came from. Thankfully, though, on various levels of politicking throughout the country, he or she who has the most money or the biggest financial contributors isn’t necessarily the winner. Take for instance, the last presidential election, the most expensive election in history. While President Barack Obama outspent former Connecticut Gov. Mitt Romney by more than $100 million, Romney received unprecedented political donations, totaling more than $104 million from just two people, Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson (and his wife) and Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner. For California’s 2010 gubernatorial election, billionaire Meg Whitman lost to Jerry Brown, who is now serving a third term as governor. Whitman spent $177 million compared to Brown at $36 million.
While it’s unsettling to think the über-rich can make political donations that the average Joe only wishes he could make in a lifetime, it remains to be seen just how badly elections can be lost by those who spend more or who have the biggest contributors. The real issue, however, is that as more money is thrown into the political arena, the public isn’t necessarily aware of who is paying for what and what that means should a candidate get elected, such as the billionaire Koch brothers’ investment into the rise of the Tea Party. Deception is one of the biggest problems in politics today, so when SCOTUS decided earlier this month to review the “right to lie in political campaigns” case, which is based on the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, we couldn’t help but wonder, is there any integrity or even dignity left in politics? The “right to lie” case stems from an Ohio law that penalizes anyone who knowingly lies in political advertisements. Ohio is one of a number of states that have such laws.
At this point, the corporate personhood ruling hasn’t made a total mockery of politics, but the fact that the Ohio case came to the U.S. Supreme Court shows just the lengths people will go to win an election. We already know that lies, misinformation, etc., are out there and correcting them only somewhat fixes the problem. So why work harder to legally ensure the election process is corrupt? Ohio, among other states, has worked to try and nix the scandal in politics. This case just proves how little integrity there is left.
While we don’t have much faith in the U.S. Supreme Court to try to keep this kind of corruption out of politics, we do have some hope the justices can see just how irrational it is to continue to condone outright lies about those we need to put our trust in to represent us. Regardless of the final decision, it is our duty as citizens to pursue the truth, no matter the constitutionality of outright lies.