An unhappy anniversary of Citizens United

Mid-January of 2014 marks the unhappy fourth anniversary of one of the defining moments in U.S. politics. No, not an election, but a court ruling.

That’s because four years ago, the GOP-named 5-man majority on the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United, the infamous court case.

There, the justices declared, “money is speech,” in so many words, and unleashed corporations and the rich to flood our political system with a tsunami of almost untraceable campaign cash.

To (unintentionally) mark that anniversary and shine a spotlight on the enormous impact of that ruling, the public interest group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the Washington Post teamed up in a major expose to trace the cascade of cash from just one set of big donors, to show its impact on the system.

They chose the Kochs. And what they found was horrifying.

Though constant money trading through a series of allegedly “non-profit” front groups and donations to other radical right organizations, the two extremist oilmen from Kansas City funneled a minimum of $407 million into the last 2-year political cycle.

To put that in perspective, the Kochs’ documented tidal wave alone equaled – actually it slightly exceeded – all the political spending from every single union campaign finance committee in the country, combined.

Stop and think about that for a minute. Think about what the U.S. Supreme Court majority let loose upon us.

One of every eight workers in the U.S. is a union member. A slightly higher share is union members or non-members represented by unions, combined. Unionists’ contributions to their campaign finance committees are all voluntary.

Non-members whom union contracts cover must get the right to opt out of funding any union spending for anything other than administering contracts, another Supreme Court ruling (Beck) says. And in so-called “Right to Work” states, they don’t even need to pay for that task, leaving unions high and dry.

As a result of the fact that political giving is voluntary, not all union members donate to politics. Those who do anted up $400 million, the Post reported.

David and Charles Koch, two of the leaders of the extremist anti-worker, anti-union, anti-freedom crusade in the U.S., outdid that all by themselves.

The Kochs aren’t the only right-wingers who have drowned our democracy under their cascade of money, manipulating the political system and forcing policy solutions that benefit themselves and bury us. They’re just the biggest of the bunch.

Another such outfit, Crossroads, organized by anti-worker GOP President George W. Bush’s former evil eminence, Karl Rove, threw in another $325 million, CREW and the Post reported.

The results show up in your lives. One example: A U.S. House of UnRepresentatives, where the tea party GOP runs the show, denying unemployment benefits, killing jobs bills and more. Another: State legislatures gerrymandered so badly they give constant tax cuts to the rich while outlawing union dues, abolishing teacher tenure, gutting your pensions and banning you from voting, among other actions.

Throw in a right wing GOP governor in Michigan who first yanked most state funds for Detroit and then forced the majority-minority city into bankruptcy. And a right wing GOP governor in Wisconsin who blasted public workers to kingdom come (unless they backed him in 2010).

The net of what you have from this cascade of corporate cash – from the Kochs and their ilk – that funded these politicians is a lot of pain and suffering by you and me.

All thanks to the 5-man GOP majority on the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. political system was already tilted heavily in favor of big business, the rich and the Radical Right. Citizens United only made it more so, by letting them do their damnedest to shut the rest of us out, completely. And they did.

That’s why mid-January is an unhappy anniversary. Because it’s the anniversary of a ruling that took our rights – our civil rights and our economic rights – away.

Photo: Activists with Health Care for America Now and other groups “rename” the Supreme Court the “U.S. Supreme Koch” with a giant 30-foot banner, Jan. 19, 2012.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners. El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People's World en Washington, D.C. También es editor del servicio de noticias sindicales Press Associates Inc. (PAI).