Amid the torrent of words written and yet to be written (or spoken or texted) on the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling today, Colorado Ethics Watch Director Luis Toro takes a local perspective that sheds a ray of light into the gloomy assessments of the ruling he otherwise shares. “This is not the end of campaign finance regulation in Colorado!”
“Today’s decision is a disaster for those who oppose excessive corporate or labor union influence on our elections. It would be naïve, however, for anyone involved in elections to interpret this ruling as the end of campaign finance regulation in Colorado.”
Toro said that eight Supreme Court justices agreed that corporations or unions can still be required to disclose their advocacy spending and to provide disclaimers on campaign ads identifying the authors or funders of the ads.
“Strong enforcement of these requirements is more important now than ever,” said Toro. “At Ethics Watch, we remain committed to protecting Coloradans’ right to know who is spending money to influence elections and to defending the system from the corrupting influence of special interests.”
Toro has his work cut out for him.
Richard Hasen writing on the ruling at Slate explains that the floodgates have opened.
Though the decision deals with federal elections, expect state and local corporate and union spending limits to be challenged, and to fall, throughout the country. There are many responses to Justice Kennedy’s reasoning. He wrongly assumes that corporations or unions can throw money at public officials without corrupting them. Could a candidate for judicial office, for example, be swayed to rule in favor of a contributor who donated $3 million to an independent campaign to get the candidate elected to the state supreme court?
The answer to his question seems so obvious it doesn’t need to be articulated.
As to the requirement to disclose the authors of political ads, the raft of euphemistic front organizations that already exist in this country and that cropped up seemingly every day throughout the past year to stand in for health-care industry corporations, for example– groups splashily identified with the words “liberty” and “freedom” and so on– make a mockery of that fig leaf of a law.
As Hasan put it:
[G]iven the history of money and elections, why should we think that disclosure alone will be enough to deal with the problems of corruption and inequality that threaten our government? I have my doubts. But I’m sure this is a bad day for American democracy.