Democrats Set Their Sights On Overturning Citizens United, Ending Dark Money In Politics

Chip SomodevillaGetty Images

The new Democratic majority in Congress has wasted little time in advancing their progressive agenda, and now are setting their sights on the controversial Citizens United ruling that opened the door to unrestricted corporate spending in politics.

Overturning the controversial 2010 Supreme Court decision that allowed for the creation of so-called “Super PACs” that funneled unlimited funding from corporations to support politicians has long been a goal of Democrats, the centerpiece of larger campaign finance reform efforts. Congressman Adam Schiff on Wednesday introduced a constitutional amendment that would overturn the decision and allow Congress to place new limits on campaign contributions, The Hill reported.

Democrats and campaign finance reform advocates have identified overturning Citizens United as the first step needed toward eliminating dark money in politics. Schiff said eliminating the ruling is the only way to curtail the influence of corporation in politics.

“Amending the Constitution is an extraordinary step, but it is the only way to safeguard our democratic process against the threat of unrestrained and anonymous spending by wealthy individuals and corporations,” Schiff said in an announcement of the amendment.

“This amendment will restore power to everyday citizens.”

Citizens United has been blamed for allowing an influx of corporate and foreign spending in U.S. elections. The Brennan Center for Justice reported that since a 2007 case preceding Citizens United that allowed for so-called “issue ads,” there has been more than $900 million from hidden donors spent on federal elections.

Most of these sources funnel money through politically oriented non-profit organizations, which have no limit to the amount of money they can raise from individuals, other organizations, or corporations, Vox reported. These non-profits then spend the money — sometimes from foreign sources — on issue-oriented ads during political elections.

During the 2016 presidential election, the NRA spent more than $30 million to support Donald Trump’s campaign, more than it spent during the 2008 and 2012 races combined. It was not known where the money came from, Vox noted, but the NRA was closely connected to a Russian foreign agent named Maria Butina who was convicted for trying to influence Republican officials through the NRA.

Adam Schiff’s move to end Citizens United could be a popular stance. As PublicIntegrity.org reported, a vast majority of Americans say they back a constitutional amendment that would outlaw Citizens United. That includes 85 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of Republicans. The study also found that 88 percent of American overall want to reduce the influence large campaign donors have over lawmakers and in politics in general.