The Citizens United decision and the massive amount of money it has brought into American politics has led to a government that is no longer of, by or for the people, but instead works for those who can write the biggest campaign checks.
The decision is at the root of the major challenges facing our country. We will not secure the decent wages due Salomon Fuentes, or the safe streets and campuses Lori Haas has devoted her life to pursuing unless we break the power of big money in politics. We won’t address the climate changes behind the destruction of Kisha Baldwin’s house until we tame the financial hurricane roaring through our politics. Today’s elementary and high schoolers will be face the same mountain of college debt confronting Contessa Jackson, and the open Internet that Cabot Orton’s business depends on will remain in danger so long as big money calls the tune in Congress and our statehouses.
So what can we do? Here are some places to start.
- Push Congress, state legislatures, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) to require disclosure of the donors behind the dark-money groups that are pouring millions into attack ads and electioneering at the state and federal level.
- Implement small-donor, matching-fund systems to pay for campaigns at all levels of government and allow candidates to compete and win without relying on big money.
- Demand stronger ethics and transparency laws to end the coordination between “independent” political action groups and politicians.
- Amend the U.S. Constitution to overturn the 2010 Citizens United decision and permit sensible limits on political spending.
Strengthen voting rights and increase voter turnout to diminish the power of big donors.
None of these things will be easy. Indeed, lifetimes already have been devoted to the fight against big money and more lifetimes likely may be needed to win it.
But this week, as we prepare for our annual celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it’s worth recalling his admonition that “in this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”