Undermining Citizens' United

In 2010, the Supreme Court removed restrictions on campaign financing in the Citizens United decision.  The Court, in a 5-4 vote, determined that corporations are people and that governments could not restrict the size of their "voices".  Money spent in elections was decreed to be unlimited 1st Amendment speech.

In this campaign season, we are seeing what Citizens United has wrought.  Nearly $1 Billion from independent Super PACs and even worse, "social welfare organizations" like Crossroads GPS, has already been raised, nearly all of it contributions from billionaires and powerful business interests.  The level of corruption in American politics unleashed by this single ruling threatens to swamp our democracy.

There are at least two efforts underway to reverse Citizens United.  The first is a Constitutional Amendment introduced by Senator Tom Udall authorizing state and local governments to regulate campaign spending.  The second is a current Supreme Court case, brought by the Montana Attorney General, challenging the Court's decision to overturn Montana's anti-corruption law.

In Wisconsin's recall election against Governor Scott Walker, $63.5 million has already been spent, nearly all of it raised outside of the state.  Of that, $2 million came from unions and the other 97% from the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity and similar conservative groups.

Let me propose a third, a very simple third.  It does not replace the other two but is a stop-gap designed to minimize the impact of all that cash spent to purchase our elected leaders.  It begins with a survey of the kinds of ads being bought.  At Race for 2012, television, radio and web ads for the candidates are posted.  Right now, there are two ads per day being released on behalf of Governor Romney or attacking President Obama.  The Romney campaign, American Crossroads (Super PAC) and Crossroads GPS (so-called social welfare charity) are behind most of these.  There have been thirty pro-Romney ads released since the most recent pro-Obama ad.  Since the beginning of the year, there have been 78 pro-Romney (or anti-Obama) ads compared to 2 pro-Obama. 

The ads are designed for television viewers and web distribution.  Are they effective?  Of course they are.  And regardless of the source -- Democrats or Republicans -- you can count on them to twist the truth, tell half-truths or even tell bald-faced lies.

But you have the power to undermine them.  And it's actually quite simple.  Just do the following:
  1. Don't watch television ads.  Record shows you plan to watch -- including nightly news -- and fast-forward through commercials.  Don't watch political ads.
  2. Download an ad blocking app to your browser.  With the app installed (tiny programs that take little time to download), you won't see any third party advertising.  Ever.  Here are the links:
    • Mozilla Firefox:  Ad Block Plus 
      • I use this one and will vouch for its excellence.  I never see ads -- not on Facebook, not in the New York Times, nowhere.
    • Internet Explorer: Instructions here
    • Google Chrome: Ad Block
  3. When someone shares an ad with you, by email, Twitter or Facebook, challenge it.  Ask for sources and comment or reply.  I say this even though I'm as guilty of spreading political bits as anyone else.  
If we could all conspire together to not see the ads the anti-democratic forces are spreading, their dollars won't buy our votes.  If we see them, odds are we'll be swayed.

It's in your hands.  Don't just wait for the Montana decision or for a Constitutional Amendment that will be years off, protect your vote.  Protect your elected representatives.

See Also:  Are you for Sale?