The Blog

Citizens United

Posted on March 05, 2019

By: Lauren LaMar and Emily R. Martin

For years now corporations have been deciding who is going to be in office and who is going to hold the power. In 2010, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was taken to the Supreme Court. The now-landmark ruling declared that under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, the government cannot limit corporations from spending money on communications for political campaigns, including those held in Georgia. Essentially, it was ruled that spending money was a form of free speech, and that corporations were “speakers”. The one worthy exception is that while corporations or unions may not give money directly to campaigns, they may seek to persuade the voting public through other means, such as advertisements, media and commercials.

 This all boils down to money, and “big money” tends to win. Many resources are put into these campaigns which allows for power that has not been fairly voted on by the people. Under Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court held that the prohibitions in the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) against corporate spending on independent expenditures or electioneering communications are unconstitutional. It set the precedent that spending is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and the government may not keep corporations or unions from spending money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections. 

Citizens United has been a controversial ruling since the day it was decided. Due to the decision, domestic and foreign corporations now have the ability to bankroll politics, and Georgia is no exception. This further opens the door to bribery and corruption in politics. Now, a political action committee (PAC) can let a member of the legislature know that if they vote the “wrong” way on a certain issue, the PAC will be spending large sums on getting their opponent elected when the congressional member is up for re-election. There is no limit on how much a corporation or union can spend, giving these groups even more power in legislatures, such as that of the Georgia General Assembly, than they already had. 

Overall, the Citizens United decision poses a serious threat to a true and free democracy in America. Officials should be elected by people, not corporations. Americans need government officials that are going to represent the people and advocate for real issues. Georgians deserve valid solutions that will make a change for the better, not just the latest corporate agenda.