28 October 2009

SCOTUS Ruling on Corporate Campaign Donations Due Any Day

FROM: Common Cause

We may be just a week away from a Supreme Court decision that could shake the foundation of our democracy, and pave the way for corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts on the direct election or defeat of federal candidates.

That's because the Supreme Court could rule as soon as November 3 on the Citizens United case – which began as a narrow fight over funding for a political documentary, but has morphed into a case calling into question a century of campaign finance law. If the long-standing ban on corporate political spending is thrown out, it could unleash a flood of money into the political system. Precisely how much is hard to say, but according to new Common Cause analysis:

* If corporations and unions spend on political ads what they spend now on lobbying, they would be spending four times as much -- $6 billion -- as the $1.5 billion that all congressional candidates spent in the last election.

* The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently launched a $150 million advertising campaign to support a specific version of the health care reform legislation. That is one trade association on one bill -- imagine the implications for federal elections.

* In the 2008 elections, the winning candidates for the House of Representatives spent an average of $1.4 million on his or her campaign, roughly equivalent to what the health care industry spent daily on lobbying during the first six months of 2009.

We have a three-point plan that we will launch as soon as the Citizens United decision is handed down. Common Cause will work to minimize the impact of a bad ruling, prevent Congress from taking counter-productive actions (like increasing contribution limits) and enact an alternative system that allows congressional candidates to run vigorous campaigns without relying on money from big special interests. Without immediate action, ordinary citizens' voices could be drowned out by corporate spending on elections.