By Fred Wertheimer, president, Democracy 21. This post is part of an ACSblog symposium marking the one-year anniversary of the landmark decision Citizens United v. FEC. Follow Fred Wertheimer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/FredWertheimer
On January 21, 2010, five Supreme Court justices issued a disastrous decision that initiated a dangerous sea change in American politics.
The Supreme Court by a 5 to 4 vote in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission struck down a century of U.S. policy and decades of Court precedent to declare unconstitutional the ban on corporate expenditures in federal elections.
In so doing, the five justices unleashed massive influence-seeking corporate expenditures and opened the door to enormous damage to our democracy.
Corporations have trillions of dollars and they are now free to spend as much of their money as they want to buy influence over federal officeholders and government decisions.
The Court decision constituted a political decision by five ideologically conservative justices who ignored history, ignored past precedent and ignored the jurisprudence that normally governs Supreme Court cases. Instead, the ustices issued a decision that represents a classic case of legislating from the bench, a practice repeatedly frowned on by these same justices.
The rights of citizens are laced throughout our constitution. The word "corporation" never appears.
Nevertheless, the five "strict constructionist" Justices chose to elevate corporations to the level of citizens in our political process. They conferred on corporations the "constitutional" right to directly participate in our elections, a "constitutional" right that did not exist prior to the day of the decision.
The Court's decision, furthermore, was built on a series of deeply flawed assumptions.