The True Cost of Citizens United: The Roberts Court’s Darkest Hour Revisited

It’s been five years since the Supreme Court decided Citizens United, which allowed unlimited corporate money into the political system and increased the domination of democracy by the wealthy elite. Money has indeed overwhelmed the system since 2008. This rise of big money in politics has endangered democracy and emboldened those who want to put democracy up for sale to aggressively attack the modest campaign spending regulations that still remain.

 

A recent Demos report explores how, since Citizens United, the following have occurred:

  • In the 2012 election .01 percent of all Americans contributed more than 28 percent of all individual contributions.
  • In the 2012 election, Sheldon Adelson spent an estimated $150 million, $98 million through dark money channels. In 1980, by contrast, the largest donor gave $1.72 million (inflation-adjusted).
  • A 2013 study finds, “millionaires receive about twice as much representation when they comprise just 5 percent of the district’s population than the poorest wealth group does when it makes up 50 percent of the district.”
  • Another 2013 study finds that the richest 1 percent of Americans are “extremely active politically and that they are much more conservative than the American public as a whole with respect to important policies concerning taxation, economic regulation, and especially social welfare programs.”
  • In the 2014 midterms, in the most competitive races, candidates got 86 percent of individual contributions from donors giving more than $200.

Americans are increasingly skeptical of claims that democracy by the wealthy is compatible with their interests. In a recent study commissioned by CNBC and Burson-Marsteller, 73 percent of American consumers believe that the government is more on the side of corporations than average citizens. Research by Pew suggests that trust in government has reached an almost record low, and the most recent ANES data find that 63.4 percent of Americans earning less than $30,000 agree (24.5 percent “strongly agree”) that public officials don’t care what people think.