The CWA News | Big Money in Politics Gets Even Bigger

Volume 75, Issue #1 | Spring 2015

In its Citizens United decision in 2010, the Supreme Court affirmed that money equals speech and corporations equal people. That decision, combined with last year’s McCutcheon decision that allowed virtually unlimited political spending, has enabled a flood of dollars from corporations and the wealthiest Americans to cripple our political process and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.

Five years ago, Justice Anthony Kennedy assured Americans that disclosure requirements would ensure that “citizens can see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests.”

No one believes that today. Today, our political process is marked by secret contributions, stealth donations and very little transparency in who is spending these big bucks at the federal, state and community levels.

A record $4 billion was spent in the 2014 congressional elections.

In 2012, $7 billion was spent on presidential and congressional elections, a record that likely will be broken, especially with the pledge by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch who said they will spend nearly $ 1 billion – $899 million – in the 2016 elections.

This is not what democracy looks like.

What's The Solution?

  • Democracy for All. An amendment to the U.S. Constitution that overturns Citizens United and other obstacles to campaign finance reform. Its point is clear: corporations aren’t people and money isn’t speech.
  • The DISCLOSE Act would require disclosure from all groups making political donations.
  • Legislation to establish a publicly financed, small donor matching system. New York City and other communities already have adopted this model for elections. It works. Bills already proposed include the Government by the People Act and the Fair Elections Now Act, and the Empowering Citizens Act.
  • The Sunlight for Unaccountable Nonprofits Act would require tax-exempt groups to disclose the names of donors who give more than $5,000.

Since 2010, 16 states and more than 500 local governments have called on Congress to overturn Citizens United through ballot initiatives, resolutions or other measures. We’re growing stronger every day in the fight to take back our democracy.

It’s past time to act to put elections back in the hands of the voters – and get them out of the hands of billionaires and special interests. —Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)

Getting Big Money Out of Politics

Across the country, thousands of CWAers and activists from Common Cause, Public Citizen, environmental and reform groups held actions and events to mark the fifth anniversary of the disastrous Supreme Court Citizens United decision.

“Money out, voters in” was the message, and across the country, activists pressed for a small donor financing system, accountability and transparency in political contributions and congressional action to make it clear that money is not speech.

So far, more than 5 million activists signed a petition calling for a constitutional amendment to get money out of politics. The Democracy Initiative – a broad coalition of 50 environmental, community, labor and citizen organizations representing more than 30 million activists – is fighting to restore the political voice of ordinary Americans.