We can not fully address the current campaigns, nor the growth of the OWS movement without at least a cursory look at the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court.
Most do realize this is not a new battle in the halls of justice, rather one that has been continuing for well over a hundred years. The primary point is that even Teddy Roosevelt in 1907 saw a definite need for campaign regulation and reform. The underlying problem has long been that of whether or not a corporation or anyone, has the right to give unlimited funds to a campaign or party be to state or Federal.
The question today is repeated often, “Are corporations people and therefore entitled to donate funds to campaigns?”
Under the current Supreme Court the decision was that all past reforms and need for reporting in a manner of full disclosure was struck down. Not only would corporations be granted full personhood, but they could donate as much money without disclosure to any campaign. In fact, Justice Thomas felt that this decision did not go far enough in allowing more powers to corporate entities. The justification lies with the interpretation of the First Amendment, and the freedom of speech clause. This Court finds that freedom of speech is as equal to each citizen as it is to all corporations.
Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission grew from a limited question about a political documentary [Hillary:The movie] to a broad challenge to the government's right to restrict corporations from spending money to support or oppose political candidates.
Encompassing questions on First Amendment rights, the power of corporations and the influence of money on political elections, the case has created an assortment of
strange bedfellows. Conservatives and liberals appear on both sides, either to defend the government's right to restrict corporate political advocacy or, on the other side, to argue that such regulations are a violation of the First Amendment.
When the court first announced it would be reconsidering the case last September, Bill Moyers spoke with two prominent lawyers involved in the case: Trevor Potter, president and general counsel of The Campaign Legal Center, who submitted a brief to the court in support of the F.E.C.; and Floyd Abrams, a First Amendment attorney, who argued before the court on behalf of Citizens United.
**** From Bill Moyers
Some of the most straightforward proposals call for increased disclosure requirements by individuals and organizations engaging in political speech. Mandatory disclosure plays a big part in the Court's majority reasoning that unregulated expenditures will not cause undue harm to the integrity of elections. In his opinion Kennedy writes, "With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters." Yet, as Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation points out, disclosure requirements aren't up to the standards the Court seems to think they are: "The disclosure system they describe doesn't yet exist. The current disclosure system is insufficiently 'rapid and informative' and does not make effective use of modern technology." The Sunlight Foundation has laid out a list of disclosure reforms they'd like to see.
One more consideration is that of disclosure to the owners of a corporation, technically the share holders. This point is addressed by The Sunlight foundation:
“Some proposed changes focus on the mechanics of how corporations actually 'speak.' For instance, if a publicly traded corporation spends 'its' money on political speech, that money technically belongs to shareholders. Several bills have been introduced before Congress and in state legislatures to require that corporate executives either inform, or receive consent from shareholders before spending money on political speech. **
Taken from the summary of Maryland’s proposed share holders rights: (SB570)
“A related question is that of foreign participation in elections. Current law bars foreign nationals from contributing to federal campaign committees. The Citizens United ruling raises questions as to whether foreign-controlled corporations or corporations with foreign shareholders have a right to spend money on political speech. Several members of Congress have introduced bills to prohibit foreign money from making its way into U.S. elections through corporate speech.”
As the law currently stands in complete opposition to all pre-existing laws on campaign donations and transparency to the citizens, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision with each group standing in total opposition to one another and along political lines for the 5 consenting votes, we have seen the operational results.
Currently, though it may not be fully factual that our elected officials are bought and paid for by the highest bidder, that is how many Americans observe the current election climate. What is need is full transparency in order for the citizens to know who is making the donations and how those monies are being used. Though there is once again, a group trying to bring this case before the Supreme Court, I doubt we will see much in the way of changes with current sitting court.
An often quoted aphorism is perfectly fitted to this situation. “Justice must not only be done but must seen to done.” There in lies the problem, US citizens do not see justice being done. They want and need to have any and all campaign finance to be under full scrutiny of a separate legal commission.