PBS Episode Explores Citizens United’s Impact on Judicial Elections

February 22, 2010
A recent PBS "Bill Moyers Journal," episode focused on the fallout of the high court's recent ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, and especially how it could impact the election of judges. The Feb. 19 program revisits a 1999 "Frontline" program that investigated increasing concern about campaign contributions' impact on the judiciary and noted a recent comment from retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor that the most disconcerting fallout of Citizens United may be its influence on judicial elections. The program also includes commentary from The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin, who said the decision, which held that corporations may spend freely on elections, could have a staggering impact on the courts in states where judges are elected.

Toobin maintains:

I think judicial elections are really the untold story of Citizens United, the untold implication. Because when the decision happened, a lot of people said, 'Okay. This means that Exxon will spend millions of dollars to defeat Barack Obama when he runs for re-election.' I don't think there's any chance of that at all. That's too high profile. There's too much money available from other sources in a presidential race. But judicial elections are really a national scandal that few people really know about. Because corporations in particular, and labor unions to a lesser extent, have such tremendous interest in who's on state supreme courts and even lower state courts that that's where they're going to put their money and their energy because they'll get better bang for their buck there.

Watch video of the program here or by clicking on the picture. 

On Feb. 24, ACS will host an event at the National Press Club further exploring the political and legal fallout from Citizens United. See here for information on the event.