League of Women Voters Blasts Money in Politics on Citizens United Anniversary

BOSTON—The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts strongly criticizes the increasing role of big money in the political system five years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which permits the unlimited flow of money from corporations, labor unions and special interest group to political campaigns.

“About $3.67 billion—not including money spent by outside groups on so-called issue ads—was spent on Congressional races in the 2014 midterm elections, an unprecedented amount, and the bulk of that money came from large donors,” said Anne Borg, co-president of the Massachusetts League. “The voice of the individual voter can hardly be heard in today’s campaigns.

“For the sake of our democracy, we must reverse this trend to enormous campaign contributions from donors who remain anonymous to the public, though certainly not to the candidates they fund.”

When the Supreme Court issued the Citizens United on Jan. 21, 2010, the national League of Women Voters stated:  “The Supreme Court has made a tragic mistake.  Their decision announced today in Citizens United v. FEC  is constitutionally irresponsible and will surely bring about an anti-democratic revolution in how we finance elections in this country.

“In creating a new constitutional right for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of their shareholder’s money to determine the outcome in candidate elections, the Court has unleashed into our elections tremendous sums of money from for-profit corporations that cannot possibly be matched in quantity by contributions from ordinary citizens.  The only possible outcome of this is that big money and special interests will have an even tighter grip on our democracy.”

Subsequent Court decisions have only made the situation worse, evidenced by last April’s McCutcheon decision removing limits on individual campaign contributions.  “In this decision, the Court opens another loophole by allowing our political parties to be further corrupted by big-money contributions from special interests. The party and Political Action Committee systems now become a huge funnel for corrupting elected officials across the country,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the national League.

“The McCutcheon decision simply means more power for big money, more corruption for the rest of us. The Roberts Court is saying that big money is worth more than the voices of individual citizens,” MacNamara said.

And the damage has not been caused only by court decisions.

In December, a provision in the Omnibus Appropriations bill authorized a single individual to give a total of $777,600 to the three committees of a national party per year or a total of $1,555,200 in a two-year election cycle.

Congress passed the appropriations bill with that provision in it, and President Obama signed it.  The League had urged the President to veto the bill, noting, “Such massive federal contributions have been prohibited for more than four decades to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption.”

The Massachusetts League urges legislators at both the state and federal levels to require full disclosure of the source of all contributions to campaigns and to SuperPACs and other groups working on behalf of candidates and issues.

“If the public does not know who is paying for political campaigns, the public cannot judge whether elected officials are acting in the interests of the public or of major campaign donors,” said Borg.

“The Massachusetts League urges voters to ask all candidates at every level of government to name the major donors to their campaigns and to explain what steps they support to end the influence of money in politics,” she said. “Some of the key efforts to address the growing influence of money include stronger disclosure requirements, tighter regulations related to coordination between outside groups with candidates and campaigns, and public funding of elections.”

The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts is a non-partisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government and works to increase understanding of major public policy issues.  Additional information on the issue of money in politics is available on its website, www.lwvma.org.

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1/14/2015