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Money in Politics Decade After Citizens United

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, political donors in the top 10 majority-white ZIP codes for candidate and super PAC contributions gave a combined $1.85 billion, compared with $179 million in the top 10 majority-minority ZIP codes. Photo: Phil Roeder/Flickr

by Eric Galatas

DALLAS — A decade after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United decision opened the floodgates for independent campaign contributions, grassroots groups in Texas and across the nation still are struggling to limit the influence of money in politics.

Dave Jones, president of Clean Elections Texas, says the ruling has tipped the scales of lady justice, and most Americans realize that their government does not represent them the way it should.

“And what the court has done, it has just tipped those scales,” he states. “It’s put our democratic system out of balance, by giving too much weight to money, to wealthy interests. And those are corporations and wealthy individuals, primarily.”

Citing previous decisions, the nation’s high court ruled that political spending is a form of protected speech, and that independent spending by unions or corporations should not be limited.

The court also signaled that transparency in contributions would rein in bad players.

Overturning the court’s ruling would require a constitutional amendment.

According to new Public Citizen reports, corporations have spent more than half a billion dollars to influence elections, largely anonymously, since 2010, and just 25 ultra-wealthy individuals poured $1.4 billion into super PACs.

Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, says the ruling also has sparked pushback.

Nine in ten Americans say they’re disgusted by the influence of big money in politics, and three quarters support overturning Citizens United.

“The only reason this overwhelming and intense demand for reform has not yet been matched by responsive legislation and a constitutional amendment is because of the influence of this small number of super rich people and giant corporations,” Weissman stresses.

Since 2010, Weissman says millions of Americans have signed petitions to reverse the court’s decision, and more than 800 local government resolutions and 20 states have called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

So far, 121 members of the current Congress have co-sponsored legislation for a constitutional amendment.

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