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Campaign finance panel who’s who

The 2012 election cycle cost an estimated $6 billion was spent — nearly double what was spent in 2000 according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Of course the huge increase in campaign spending follows the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling. That 5-4 decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, said restrictions on independent spending by corporations and unions to support candidates violated their constitutional guarantees of free speech. In his dissent Justice John Paul Stevens warned then that the ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the nation.

Four experts joined Ray Suarez to discuss just what Citizens United has done for — or to — American democracy.

Richard Brookhiser

Richard Brookhiser is a historian and senior editor at The National Review, where he has worked for the past 35 years. Brookhiser is the author of several books on America’s founding fathers including “James Madison,”  ”Alexander Hamilton, American” and “What Would the Founders Do?:  Our Questions, Their Answers.” His memoir about his mentor William F. Buckley is titled “Right Time, Right Place: Coming of Age with William F. Buckley Jr. and the Conservative Movement.”

My point of view is that it is a First Amendment issue. And  I think historically you can justify that if you look at what the founders wanted, what they intended, also how they behaved as politicians. It was a much smaller country, there was less money, there was much, much less to spend money on. But we’ve always spent it when we had it.

More from Richard Brookhiser:

David Keating is the President of The Center for Competitive Politics. He was formerly the Executive Director of Club for Growth and he has served as executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union and executive director of Americans for Fair Taxation.

David Keating

Keating was appointed to the National Commission on Restructuring the Internal Revenue Service by Senator Bob Dole in 1996, the commission’s work was the basis for legislation passed by Congress in 1998 that agency and made significant changes to the tax code.

Now, the overall composition of the Senate and House is roughly the same, but if you look at the individual races you saw a lot more competition. You saw a very competitive Republican primary in the presidential fight. So we’ve got more competition; we’ve got more voices and I think that’s a good thing.

More from David Keating:

Scott Murphy

Scott Murphy is a venture capitalist and former Democratic Congressman from upstate New York.

I think that more competition and more voices are absolutely a good thing, I think that David’s approach for how you get there is the wrong one. When I ran for office one of the things that was actually a big help to me was that I’d been in the business world and I’d started and been involved with growing a lot of companies. I knew a lot of successful business people. That’s one of the key issues when you try to go out and raise the money you need to be in campaigns right now is do you know the rich people who have the money to fund this? What that does is actually limits who can get involved.


Monica Youn

Monica Youn is the inaugural Brennan Center Constitutional Fellow at NYU School of Law, where she focuses on election law and First Amendment issues. Prior to the fellowship, she directed the Brennan Center’s Money in Politics program. Before joining the Brennan Center, she was in private practice, and also served as law clerk to Judge John T. Noonan, Jr. in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  She has litigated campaign finance and election law issues in state and federal courts throughout the nation.  She is the editor of “Money, Politics, and the Constitution: Beyond Citizens United,” a book of essays by leading constitutional scholars and she has published  law review articles on election law issues. She is also an award-winning poet and has been an adjunct professor of creative writing at Pratt Institute and Columbia University.

The actual facts are, you know, in this election we have probably in excess of $300 million being spent by these shadow organizations.  We have no idea where the money is coming from and it’s a real problem for accountability and for democracy in general.

More from Monica Youn

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  • Paul Siraisi

    From wikipedia, since Need to Know seems to need to know:


    According to Federal Election Commission, IRS reports, analysis by the independent Center for Responsive Politics and other sources, American Crossroads’ major contributors have included:

    Bob J. Perry, President of Perry Homes, Houston, Texas ($7 million)
    B. Wayne Hughes, founder of Public Storage Inc ($2.3 million)
    Trevor Rees-Jones, President and CEO of Chief Oil and Gas, ($2 million)
    Robert Rowling, CEO of TRT Holdings, ($1 million)
    Dixie Rice Agricultural Corporation ($1 million)
    Southwest Louisiana Land ($1 million)
    Jerry Perenchio Living Trust ($1 million)
    American Financial Group, ($400,000)

    I’m sure we can find the rest.

  • George/Atlanta

    These folks on today”s program are acting like they are the most naive people on the planet. Of course the money did not do much in this election. They were are out smarted the first time out of the gate.The people that they distriubited all the money to were out of touch. However you can bet your last dollar the second time around with no discloser there are a lot of folks that going be bought out, and in addition a lot of money will ifitrate the sytem from other countries. I know resticted money helps incumbants, but full discloser, makes it fair. There is more dissusion needed. (Disclose)

    Thanks//Layman from the south

  • cgahhwahh

    I am really tired of PBS marketing themselves as the neutral moderators. Tonight’s show was truly disheartening. All, including Ray Suarez, except ONE panel member supported (from very skewed points of view, I might add) PACS and big money being the voice of population segments. No need for regulation. God help us and shame on a more and more politically conservative PBS for not really exploring this issue.

    Can’t wait for Gwen and her obvious leaning against Obama.

    Yes, I am a liberal, but it is the subtle questions, the way in which they are asked and the way in which they slant the issue that diminish the real possibility of a meaningful conversation that upset me. Thank God for Shields and Brooks!

  • Nobody Important


    This is my first post to the PBS site.

    Most Americans don’t know or understand the history of the United States. Eight President owned slaves, Madison had a slave in the White House. Of course most signers of the Declaration of Independence our founding fathers were slave owners.

    The Declaration of Independence was written using language that did not or would not interfere with these lifestyles of the people; our founding fathers.

    Just so everybody understands how our founding fathers felt about Banks and Corporations;

    Thomas Jefferson – I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.

    And another

    Thomas Jefferson – If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them (around the banks), will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.

    And another

    Thomas Jefferson – I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Already they have raised up a moneyed aristocracy that has set the government at defiance. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.

    John Adams – Banks have done more injury to the religion, morality, tranquility, prosperity, and even wealth of the nation than they can have done or will ever do good.

    James Madison – History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and it’s issuance.

    Here is your Supreme Court in action:

    Here is Powell’s memorandum:

    Education is important, information is important

  • Nobody Important

    I am just informed, not liberal or conservative, just informed.

  • Chip

    The show missed a key issue: a corporation (or union) can spend massive amounts of money on an election, using the corporate (or union) funds to express the voices of only the very top of the organization. So, the CEO’s voice is magnified hugely while shareholders have no say. One person at the top has a very strong voice yet the vast body of members of that organization have no real voice. Requiring full disclosure at least helps inform the members of that organization who is responsible for spending that money and if they disagree they can work to remove that top person(s).
    The Citizen’s United decision is a great disservice to our system using a strange understanding of what a ‘person’ is … Can the corporate ‘person’ vote?, run for office? Very curious.

  • Kemaco2

    The jerky audio and video editing (cutting off speakers’ comments) reduces my confidence that their views were fully and fairly aired. There should be an unedited alternative. (And I’m a former PBS employee who was defending the network just this week.)

  • Nobody Important

    My guess is that Beohner’s/McCain’s/etc… voting history have clearly demonstrated their “views” and beliefs sufficiently for people that actually check the facts. Their are those that vote based on their fear and ignorance. Sadly, these people severely impact the lives of those around them, the rest of the United States and even the rest of the world.

    Corporations, Banks, etc…, were never meant to have a place at the political table. These entities now dictate the entire meal.

  • Anonymous

    Unions supporting candidates that are in bed with them, like Obama.
    Just this last week, Obama had all Liberal groups and unions in private meetings.
    He had big business but no small biz at those meetings, the big business was all like minded thinkers on the issues that agree with Obama. Do they agree or just want something from him and pretend to agree.
    Check for yourself and see who he had at these White House meeting’s since his re-election… AARP and Acorm look a likes in one meeting, what does that tell you.
    AARP supports Obama-care and gets to run Gov programs.
    This is the most corrupted president and aministion ever. Watergate was nothing compared the Libya.

  • Anonymous

    Obama had the unions all working their tails off for him.
    Many of the same ground help was held over from his 2008 run and he used them to win the election…
    Romney could not build his ground game and set up office’s like Obama did because of the primary taking so long and with so many debates, (Over 20 debates)
    Had Romney been picked two months before, you could have OK’d setting up more stores like Obama had.

  • Anonymous

    The Dems are going to use many of the same org that helped Obama for their run, 2014 and 2016.

  • Nobody Important

    I think the “Dems” will use their collective record to run on; like Obama did.

  • Nobody Important

    Big business, like minded to Obama? Big business supported Romney, not Obama. Changing facts to suit your fiction doesn’t mesh with reality. This is like saying that Obama had a distinct advantage in the election because unemployment was above 8 percent.

    The facts do not support your conclusions. If you want the numbers for where the fault lies, I can provide them.

    Bush began with an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent and ended with 7.6 percent. Housing prices had declined considerably under Bush.

    Wrap your mind around the price of housing helping drive up unemployment. Where is that you think people get part of the money they use to furnish and/or repair and/or renovate their homes? The manufacture of durable goods are influenced by the sales of durable goods and not supply-side economics. You might do some research on supply-side economics.

    This is economics 101 or better put, basic economics. There is no incentive you can provide or create to get somebody to buy those things they do not have the money to pay for.

    Another aspect of the debacle in the housing market is the Adjustable Rate Mortgage [ARM]. Stupid people used this believing the prices for their homes would go up to the point they could refinance their loans. The ARM should not be able to be insured.

    The fault of the economy of this country in 2008 is squarely Bush’s. His choices still affect this country as do the choices of our Congress and Senate to not back the President. This was seen in the Health Care reform, affectionately known as “Obama Care”.

    Too many democrats were placing the good of themselves ahead of the good of the Country and we ended up with something that did not insure all the children of this country.

  • Anonymous

    How about Jimmy Steward in “It’s a Wonderful Life”
    How about the founder of BOA, the great Italian that helped so many.

  • Nobody Important

    This article is about the now unchecked influence of big business in our legislative and electoral processes visa-vi Citizens United v. the FEC. People see this as a politician problem instead of a judicial problem.

    The legislature drafts and passes legislation, the courts overturn the law. Our founding fathers, as flawed as they were, railed against influence of/by banks and corporations. These entities have no place in our political process.