The amount of money that a campaign spends to defeat its candidate has increased tremendously over the past 40 years. Buckley v. Valeo established money as a form of exercising freedom of speech. More than 30 years later, the Citizens United case was upheld by the Supreme Court and permitted corporations to have the same right as a person would; a corporation has the right to free speech too and therefore can donate money as a way to exercise their rights of free speech. Now how have these rulings affected the current presidential campaigns?
Although corporate personhood has created a space for the rise of Political Action Committees (PACs) and Super PACs, the dangerous organizations are the 501(c)(4)s that allow donations without any disclosure of their donors. So not only are corporations able to spend an unlimited amount of money to one of these organizations, but they are able to do so without the recognition that they openly support a certain candidate or issue.
A controversial ballot initiative claims to stop special interest money within California politics, but could provide a pathway for the domination of solely PACs and 501(c)(4)s. If Prop 32 passes, political campaigns would be primarily funded with no limitations on donations. This will decimate all hopes for transparency in political giving and allow unlimited funding for corporations, essentially muting the average American’s contributions. Prop 32 states:
“Prohibits unions from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes. Applies same us prohibition dedications, if any, by corporations and government contractors. Prohibits union and corporate contributions to candidates and their committees.”
Although the proposition seems balanced, the ones who would suffer from the passing of the proposition are unions. By prohibiting payroll-deducted funds, unions would not be able to collectively donate to a campaign, silencing their voice in the election. Unions function around collective action, whereas corporations are able to donate without earning money from dues of their employers. The summary of the proposition on the California Secretary of State webpage, it states that “Other political expenditures remain unrestricted, including corporate expenditures from available resources not limited by payroll reduction prohibition.” If this proposition passes, it will severely limit unions’ abilities to donate politically and exempt corporations that do not have payroll-deducted funds for political giving (which are the vast majority in California).
Because of laws like Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United, corporations are able to give and give until they have bribed the candidate enough so that they can secure themselves in interest of their company. So whose interest is Prop 32 protecting? Certainly not the people of California.
Summary of Prop 32: http://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2012/general/pdf/32-title-summ-analysis.pdf