The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v.FEC decision allowed corporations to spend unlimited money to support or oppose candidates for political office, overturning campaign finance laws in place for decades. Since then, millions in unrestricted secret spending has flowed into campaigns, distorting our democracy and threatening good government.
ASBC, along with other groups, filed an amicus brief urging the high court to take advantage of the Montana appellate case to revisit or at least limit the scope of the Citizens United ruling. (Read press coverage.) American Sustainable Business Council stands with the four members of the Supreme Court and the 80 percent of Americans who disagree with the decision (Washington Post poll, Feb. 17, 2010). Results from polling of small employers nationwide (released in January and February 2012 by the American Sustainable Business Council and others) further bolster that opinion, with nine in ten small business owners stating that they have a negative view of the role money plays in politics. Furthermore, 66% of small business owners view the Citizens United decision as bad for small business; only 9% said it was good for small business.
Thanks in large part to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the 2012 election cycle was the most expensive in history. According to some estimates, more than $6 billion was spent on all federal races combined. About $1 billion of that was outside spending by groups like SuperPACs and 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations - the latter of which do not have to disclose who their donors are or how much they spent. On June 26, the Supreme Court extended the damage, overturning Montana’s century-old ban on corporate spending in state elections.
What's at Stake:
The last election demonstrated just how dangerous the Citizens United ruling is, not just in terms of how much money was spent on the election but also how much of it came from undisclosed sources. Moreover, unlimited spending by individual wealthy donors could lead to at least the appearance of political corruption, damaging the public’s trust in their elected officials and their faith in the political process.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision was handed down, sixteen states, plus the District of Columbia, have passed resolutions calling on Congress to adopt a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United decision. Hundreds of towns and organizations have also passed similar resolutions. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) has introduced two constitutional amendments which would overturn Citizens United (H.J. Res 20 and H.J. Res 21).
Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been accepting public comments on a proposed rule requiring publicly traded companies to disclose all of their political activity to shareholders. Over 500,000 people have commented on the proposal so far, the most comments in the SEC’s history. Even the Supreme Court has ruled that shareholders should be given more information on political spending of corporations they have invested in, to determine whether it is helping their profits and thus share prices. It is not known when the SEC will make a decision on whether to institute such a rule.
We invite all companies who share our concern about the Citizens United decision—from Mom and Pop stores to the largest multi-nationals—to join in signing the statement. Learn more about what a constitutional amendment might look like, and explore the exciting work underway at the national, state, and local level with our partner, Free Speech for People, a national non-partisan campaign working to restore democracy.
Read the full list of signatories to date.