Topic : What effect did the Citizens United decision have on the cost of campaigns and on the way donors can use their money during elections? Is “money out of politics” a noble goal – or even an achievable one?
The misuse of money in politics is evident since ages. Politics in some countries is thought to be surviving only because of money. Election and campaigns for the same is the vital time in which money overflow in the market can be seen. Manipulation of various data and laws are also evident in many such cases. The following argumentative essay deals with the famous case of Citizen United vs Federal Election Commission (FEC), the act that followed the case and its impact on the cost campaigning trend of US. The essay also sheds light on the ways by which donors use their money in election, its misuse and the concept of “Money out of Politics”. The usage of money and manipulation has a very vital role in influencing and changing voter bank. The essay also gives an argumentative overview that whether in the coming days politics without money is possible or not or Politics will always remain a servant of money. The essay will give a thorough overview to gain a clear perspective for the same through argumentative discussion.
Brief Background on Citizens United Decision
The case of Citizen United Decision started in the pretext of the presidential elections of 2008 when a nonprofit organization named the Citizen United moved as a plaintiff to the US Supreme Court against the Federal Election Commission for preventing the release of their documentary Hillary: the Movie. The documentary was prevented in the pretext of the BCRA or the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act under which any non profit organization or any other organization is prevented from using their general treasury fund for using election purpose. The election purposes include the communication of electioning candidates in the form of Radio as well as T.V. that can refer or promote a election candidate in the upcoming election. The move was, however, restricted to a shorter span of time and restricted only 60 days prior to the election campaign. The case of Citizen United, however, first started in 2002 when the documentary release of Fahrenheit 9/11 was restricted as it was said to be similar with the then president George. W. Bush.
The Citizen United also come under focus when it released the documentary of Celsius 41.11 which is said be on the then presidential candidate John Kerry. In the year 2007, in wake of the next presidential elections, the Citizen United again went to the District Court of Columbia against the Federal Election Commission for preventing the release of Hillary: The Movie. The movie is said to reflect the life of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. As per the views of Prato & Wolton (2017), the prevention created a wide dissatisfaction among the public. The case was then referred to the US Supreme Court for further progression. On the contrary, the US Supreme Court then ruled the fact that Section 203 of Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act which prevents the non profitable organization from participating in the electioneering communication process through radio or T.V prevents freedom of speech of the citizens. Through a majority of 5-4 under Justice Kennedy, the US Supreme Court on January 21, 2010 ruled that this kind of prevention bars the right of citizens under the First Amendment. The Freedom of Press clause under the First Amendment Act rules that prohibition of speaker on the basis of his/her identity. This also protects various organizations from participating in the process of election campaign.
The ruling was immediately perceived as a historical one due to its large and long lasting implications. As highlighted by Tribe (2015), the ruling had a major impact in the election process. Apart from the majority who supported the unlimited political spending by the organization, Justice Stevens of the panel argued on the fact that the US Constitution had sought guarantee to of freedom of speech to the any US citizen and not any corporation. The judgment was opposed by majority of Americans as it would create much more exchanges in money which will affect the sovereignty of the elections conducted. The election process continued after that elected Barack Obama as the president. Just after a week of the ruling, President Barack Obama himself admitted that this kind of decision will trigger more inflow of cash in the country’s election process with a manipulative agenda and can cause much hamper to the country.
Impact of Citizens United Decision Have On the Cost of Campaigns
The ruling of the citizen United Decision caused a political spur amidst the presidential election process. The long lasting effects of the case were deeply analyzed and predicted. Though the Supreme Court ruled that the public needs to be aware of the whereabouts of the money that is being invested in political campaigns and political parties and respective candidates, it also argued that in an era of internet and awakened media, it is impossible for any party or its candidate to hide the political investment. The court also argued that this transparency of the system will ensure citizens from getting burgeoned of political candidates’ motives. However, the decision saw a major change in the way political investment was treated in the country. As said by Torchinsky and Reese (2016), the effect of Citizen United decision was seen effectively in the upcoming elections. The recently concluded 2016 election was among one of them. The election of 2016 saw a huge exponential rise on outside funding of the election. The election that followed the ruling also saw an immense rise in which the power shifted more towards outside funding and dark money became a key word in the election process. In 2018 itself, each of the top three outside spending groups were super PACs or Political Action Committees. Super PACs being free of receiving unlimited contributions from corporations as well as from labor unions became the major driving force behind the political gait of 2010 and 2016 US presidential elections. The situation is in such a condition that the election investment of PACs in 2008 of $416 million rose to almost $497 million.
On the contrary, to what was predicted by the Supreme Court while giving the ruling of Citizen United and unlimited spending ability of them, the PACs have become the face of the change of the ruling. As stated by Kim and Schofield (2016), the political outcomes of any election process get dictated by political investments. The 2016 election process, before which the popularity of now president Donald J. Trump was questioned, heavily emerged as the winner of the election process. This also shows the political gimmick involving the process of treating donations as a form of free speech. As per the views of Flavin (2015), during the political campaign of 2016 election, big donations from corporations made a distinction in between the two presidential candidates Sen. Sanders and Donald Trump. This also manipulates the public vision of viewing prospective presidential candidates. Thus, the Citizen United posed, somewhere a great threat to the sovereign process of election. A view by Klumpp, Mialon and Williams (2016), also stated that though the Super PACs are supposed to disclose the identity, they can accept unlimited donation from dark money spenders. This gives them their much needed privacy of not disclosing the identity as the company or individual can remain secret by tagging himself as a ‘Donor’. This will also increase cases of corruption and non-transparency through shielding the political manipulators. The investment can also mean to direct the special interest of other countries and can put the national security as well as the position of the country on back foot. Thus, political spending need to be in control in order to save the situation from being detrimental to such an extent that it cannot possible to get recovered. Again, a view as stated by Weiner (2015) in his work of Citizens United: Five Years Later described that keeping money out of politics is not at all possible fully in context of the current scenario. A political mishappening due to events like the investment powers game puts the whole concept of “Election” in doubt. This also causes less interest among citizens towards voting as it gives an insight that the whole process of election is pre-decided and they have no role to play towards the outcome.
Ways donors can use their money during elections
Money is an important factor which has the power to change everything especially in federal elections. Billions of dollars are raised and spent to support the function of election. It also act as a crucial determinant whether a candidate will win or not. Money has become indispensable in elections as without this factor candidates cannot intensify its message to reach voters. It also becomes difficult and harder to motivate citizens in order to take interest in election procedures. There are small and big donors who supports the election procedure by making donations. As opined by De Filippi (2016), political donations are free to donate whichever amount they wish to provide. However it has been identified those political action committees (PAC) has restricted the donation amount to $2500 per person for per candidates taking participation in the election. Individual donors for federal election accounts for two thirds of money that is been going to senate candidates. The other half of the money goes to House candidates.
Money in politics is used by investing on highly contested candidates. It has been observed that donors who invest their money on elections mostly go into making TV commercials. Television commercials are great platform in terms of promoting candidates as well as return on investment is also profitable. However, value for TV commercials decreases when those commercial ads reach a saturation level. Donors also use their money during elections by investing on legislative races. On the contrary smart choice for investing money in elections includes ignoring high profile races. Ignoring high profiles favors the structural interventions which can fundamentally change state of play. Another effective way for progressing in elections in terms of donation can be restoration of voting rights for ex-felon. As per the views of Cattelino (2018), progressive donors will required to think creatively in order to evaluate opportunities of expectation of bear market for a party. Due to increase of cost of political campaigns new participants in elections are forced to invest money from their own pocket in order to run the election campaigns.
However, participants need not necessarily invest their own money in elections as there are some donors who show an interest at potential candidates. Later on this money is paid back by contributions collected after they win the election. According to Barber (2016), money in politics is necessary in getting that competitive edge in the election run. Absence of money may eliminate less potential candidates. However, having huge financial support does not necessarily mean candidate will win the election or may influence voters to support him. All the major investment done by donors is invested in making first campaign advertisement which will affect the audience. Money available at the initial time of election plays a significant part in building campaign advertisements as they get time to create a strategic content for the audience which can influence them to support the candidates. Donor’s investment in election no doubt has relation with respect to political success (influenced by Goss, 2016). However, there is one thing that need to change is perception of winning because of money.
Concept of money out of politics
Money has always been a significant part of the political scenario of America. In Today’s world, through the flood walls between democracy and market are being washed away slowly, new currents of influence are reshaping the barriers. This change is not only being driven by the volume of the dollars but also the growing gulf among the Americans, government and commanding heights of the country’s economy. Since the moment in 2010 when the Supreme Court regarding the case of Citizens United v. FEC had come down, the decision had heralded hostile corporate takeovers of the democratic process of America. In the year 2017, A commissioner at FEC resigned stating that political campaigns have been under the dark money since this decision. This statement was also agreed by others, where it was stated that the billionaires are buying the elections (influenced by Barber, 2016).
In USA, money and its potential corrupted influence is the increasing issue of complaints about politics in USA. based on research it has been found that in every 2 years, ,many candidates of the political parties promises the public and the voters that USA’s monetary policy would be reformed by them if they gains the power and the authority. In the year 2014, U.S. Senate established a constitutional amendment which would allow th4e congress as well as the state legislature by limiting the power of money in politics (as per views of Cattelino, 2018). Along with that it has been seen that 79% of American people wants campaign finance reform. On the other hand, big politicians of USA such as Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly stated that if the issue is left without taking into consideration then Big money issue would corrupt the US political structure and undermines democracy.
In order to get financial power both of the French and American Revolutions were fought for gain privilege of aristocracy out of the governance (influenced by De Filippi, 2016). In order to provide fairness and justice U.S Supreme Court has taken this issue into consideration in two ruling cases and five conservatives justice including Republicans in Congress as well as emphasizing on the American Civil Liberties Union’s traditional free speech based on hard lines to justify the lifting of restrictions on political spending. Money along with its corrupting influence regarding political in US IS one of the significant incidents in the last two years. In every two years in US, a number of candidates promise the voters that they will provide a system that is reformed from the situation of the congressional inaction as well as the Supreme Court.
Whether money out of politics is achievable or not
Influence of money in politics is indispensable in electoral campaigns in the United States. It has significantly corrupted political and economical scenarios in America. Big donors who spend huge money on electoral campaigns provides the chance to support the candidates as well as it also provide chance to leverage their position in reshaping a country’s economy. Money out of politics can only be achievable if there are any proper amendments made in the constitution. Provisions made in constitutions will streamline the entire investment source that is used to support the candidates financially. Money out of politics can also be achieved by mobilizing public financing of elections. However, money in politics have become so common that big political leaders are also recognizing the need of eliminating such intensify influence of money in politics. It also can be observed electoral races are becoming more competition because of influence of money in elections.
Powell (2016) stated that, there are two important factors that affects politics in largely one is money, and the second one is influence of big political parties. With such strong influence keeping money out of politics becomes difficult. Another negative factor of involving money in politics is political inequality. There are some parties who gets more donors in order to support their electoral campaign. On the other hand there are some candidates who have to invest in campaigns from their own pocket. As a consequence of which political inequality takes place. This political inequality leads to generate gap between different candidates participating in elections.
In today’s globalization era, politics have become one of the platforms for earning money as well. According to Klumpp (2016), big investor who has the capability of investing in elections also seeks opportunities to get better returns on their investment. As a result of which powerful economic interest gets the chance to have influence on economic policies. Another way through which money can be eliminated from politics is making stricter rules regarding political spending made by publicly traded corporations. These provisions can only be regularized by Securities and Exchange Commission. They need to step up and make it a law regarding disclosing of amount of money spends on electoral campaigns. However, money always does not bring success to political campaigns. It has been observed that mostly advertisement campaigns gets finances so that it can be used as a tools to create an impact on the audience. Sometimes these campaigns strategy do not work well on audience.
This is because people might find the content not effective one or it may contain some offensive content as well. As opined by Williams (2017), advertisement campaigns only works on presidential elections as it is the most important election of a nation. It has also been predicted that early fundraising in general election might determine who will win the primary races. Money out of politics can only be achievable if the perception of winning politics because of money changes explicitly. And this perception can only be changed if rich investor’s stops taking advantage of their wealth as well as they also need to stop influencing big political parties with their wealth. If wealthy investors have strong influence on political policy then reduction of corruption will be impossible.
From the above report it can be concluded that the case of Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission (FEC) has had a long lasting impact on the process of election, its campaign, public perception of the same and the whole associated concept of it. It also gives an insight that political unlimited investment can have special agendas to prove through foreign powers. The concept of money out of politics cannot be fully achieved. However, through strict measures such as amendments directly targeting political misguiding and dark money during elections and ways public financing can definitely improve the situation. Though the decision had much larger implications, the strategic control of funding in elections can definitely increase the transparency and save the country politics from being a servant of money.
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