Does Money Corrupt the Political Process?

portrait of Kevin Drum

Kevin Drum, blogger for Mother Jones

That’s the title of a Mother Jones blog post by Kevin Drum. It begins,

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruled that the only justification for limiting campaign expenditures was “corruption or the appearance of corruption.” And since independent expenditures, including those from corporations and unions, don’t have any kind of corrupting influence, there’s no justification for limiting them.

Many of you will have two responses to this:

Really? That’s what Citizens United said? I never heard about that.
Really? That’s ridiculous. How can the court just unilaterally declare that unlimited money doesn’t lead to corruption?

Both of these are legitimate reactions. The first because the court’s handwaving on corruption got a lot less attention than all the fuss over Citizens United granting corporations free speech rights on a par with individuals. And the second because the court didn’t really bother justifying its belief that independent expenditures don’t corrupt the political process. It just said there wasn’t enough evidence of corruption to survive strict scrutiny and left it at that.

Drum goes on to quote from a Slate article about Justice Ginsburg’s recent statement, in connection with a case involving a Montana law limiting corporate campaign expenditures, that what’s been happening since Citizens United “make it exceedingly difficult to maintain” that independent expenditures do not lead to corruption, and asking “whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates’ allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway.”

The post concludes,

It’s probably unlikely that the Montana case will lead to a reversal of Citizens United. But at least it will force the court to tackle the least defensible part of its reasoning head on.

 

About Hamilton Richards

I retired in 1966 as a Senior Lecturer in Computer Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. These days I volunteer technical support for Citizens' Climate Lobby (Austin chapter), Common Ground for Texans, (CG4Tx.org), Integrity Texas (IntegrityTexas.org), and several friends.
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