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 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.
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:
- “Meet the Parents of the Super PACs,” by David Keating and Edward H. Crane, The Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2102
- The Center for Competitive Politics
- The Club for Growth
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 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