Big money in politics has become an existential threat to our democracy. So how did we get here?
Citizens United v. FEC is one of several Supreme Court decisions that have opened the floodgates for unlimited big money in our elections and are now preventing even the most common-sense campaign finance regulations.
The judicial philosophy that has enabled these decisions is one that is hostile to democratic principles and disproportionately favorable to the rich and powerful. That philosophy is currently held by a slim five-justice majority on the Roberts Court.
A different Court majority, one acknowledging the disastrous errors in the reasoning behind Citizens United and related cases, could eventually overturn those decisions. However, that couldn’t happen overnight.
Citizens United itself undermined a century of established law allowing for certain limits on campaign spending, but that decision and even more recent ones, like McCutcheon v. FEC and Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, have now established their own precedents that could take several cases and many years to overturn fully.
While a more democracy-friendly Supreme Court majority is essential for so many reasons, the long and daunting road to a Court decision overturning Citizens United shows the persisting need to pursue permanent constitutional remedies, driven by a popular national movement and legislation to pass and ratify a 28th constitutional amendment.