Hillary Clinton has smartly made campaign finance reform a key tenet of her campaign. In meeting with a handful of voters in Iowa on April 14, Clinton declared that, “We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment.” It was roundly assumed that she meant overturning Citizens United v. FEC, the 2010 Supreme Court case that opened the floodgates of independent expenditures on electoral campaigns.
Her stance, taken only two days after announcing her campaign for the presidency, sets the stage for showing that it will be our party —the Democrats, and not the Republicans — that supports free and fair elections at a time when deep chasms in American society are causing instability. This will be a showdown between those who believe in democracy versus those who do not.
The tenet of “one person, one vote” is at the heart of American democracy. This basic underpinning is destroyed if the demands of special interests are overly amplified and take over our self-government. Our elections become awash in the money of the wealthy elites (the so-called job creators who actually fail to create American jobs), corporations (which are not people), and illegal sources (such as foreigners and foreign governments). Juanita Q. Citizen? She is an afterthought.
Secretary Clinton’s embrace of campaign finance reform on a constitutional level, if need be, is significant. The Citizens United case was a constitutional decision, where the Supreme Court sweepingly held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from limiting the independent campaign expenditures of corporations and other such organizations, regardless of their effect on our democracy as a whole. The five Republican-appointed justices, who voted in the majority, dangerously increased our nation’s vulnerability to becoming a corporate oligarchy. It will take a constitutional amendment to undo this constitutional decision — an incredibly difficult journey to undertake, but one that progressive advocates have already begun.
Ironically enough, this disaster of a Supreme Court case came about due to the ultra-right-wing group called Citizens United seeking to air commercials for its anti-Clinton film called “Hillary: The Movie” during the last time she ran for president in 2008. Since that time, Republican-controlled statehouses and Republican governors have enacted voter suppression laws, Republican lawmakers have instituted a war on women, and the Republican brand is more about exclusion and oppression than a free country for all.
Hillary Clinton believes our electoral system is broken, and so do the voters. The size of a candidate’s war chest should not determine her ability to serve the public. Being a Democrat for a participatory democracy is expected. Let’s hear more from our side of the aisle.
Committee for Public Policy and Political Action