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The Citizens United Catastrophe

Memo Pad

The Citizens United Catastrophe


We have seen the world created by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and it doesn’t work. Oh, yes, it works nicely for the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country, especially if they want to shroud their efforts to influence politics behind shell corporations. It just doesn’t happen to work if you think we are a democracy and not a plutocracy.

Two years ago, Citizens United tore down a century’s worth of law aimed at reducing the amount of corruption in our electoral system. It will go down as one of the most naive decisions ever rendered by the court.

E. J. Dionne

Besides contributing to The National Memo, E.J. Dionne, Jr. is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post, and a university professor in the Foundations of Democracy and Culture at Georgetown University.

His most recent book is Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent (2013).

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  1. Gwen Davis February 6, 2012

    Would that E,J,Dionne had been on the court or that Stevens had been cloned. The worst decision ever. The end of the United States of America.

  2. wmsprez09 February 6, 2012

    Another bad decision made if order to help Conservitism and people with money.

  3. jimmyags February 6, 2012

    The worst thing about this is that you can hide who you are. If nothing else they should have ruled that someone had to put their name next to their actions. How can it be free speech if the person(corporation) saying it can hide in the shadows?

  4. Sleipnir February 6, 2012

    Why is anyone surprised by the Supreme Court pushing an agenda to have the wealthy be able to buy an election. I lost all respect for the Supreme Court when they handed the presidency to George Bush instead of letting the electorate decide. To bad there isn’t some way to hold the justices accountable for their actions but they are elected for life no matter how inept they are. Maybe that should change?

  5. Charles Higgins February 6, 2012

    Citizens United decision and the repeal of the Glass Steagall act-two of the worst things for this country in the last 20yrs.

  6. valszy February 6, 2012

    The electoral college may have made sense 200+ yrs ago, but not today. It is anti democracy. The national popular vote, and that alone should decide who is president. If effect, it has diluted the urban vote and given greater weight to rural vote.

  7. terango.lf February 6, 2012

    GW Bush appointed him and roberts was not only a corporate(are people)laywer, but was hired by the Bush team to represent Bush vs. Gore for the Florida decision??

  8. mvymvy February 6, 2012

    valszy: The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps. There would no longer be a handful of ‘battleground’ states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in more than 3/4ths of the states that now are just ‘spectators’ and ignored.

    When the bill is enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes– enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538), all the electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC.

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

    The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states. The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions possessing 132 electoral votes – 49% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

    Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via nationalpopularvoteinc

  9. GennyAbbott February 7, 2012

    This is catastrophic. Have felt for a long time now “Why vote? It won’t count.Election will be bought; they’re will just be fraud & the Supreme Court will likely decide the election if the electoral college has’nt done it for them. I do not trust the electoral college at all.Where is the balance of power in our gov. now?Seems the Supreme Court rules all.
    Since when are they to decide elections & why should the justices have life-time tenure. Why are they not elected too, by the people. Cannot anything be done to change this? The useless far-right Congress won’t do anything now. With the CRISIS THE COUNTRY IS IN NOW & the far-right now paranoid about “We The People”–They’ll do ANYTHING now, I think the president we have in now needs to make strong use of the executive order while he is in office. George Bush surely did it, often secretly,&,in my opinion traitorously–sold this country right down the river, to the brink of destruction for most people. He & others in his administration belong in jail & would be if they set foot in many other 1st world countries–for war crimes; yet many of their policies were carried on & our country will NOT hold them accountable for real evil. Someday, One Righteous Judge WILL meet out justice & enforce true righteousness. That’s beyond this present world. In the meantime, anybody have any answers/ideas?

  10. GennyAbbott February 7, 2012

    See my above comment submitted through Facebook Tank you.

  11. engjimeer February 7, 2012

    I feel that it was a deliberate act from a sect of the Republicans and Supreme court to get a republican (lots of money) into the white house in 2012. We have to make a clear distinction to the citizens of the great USA that this election is about

    We the People


    We the Privileged.

    My vote is for WE THE PEOPLE!

  12. rustacus21 February 8, 2012

    … the ’00 election “intervention.” If it took a year, that in no way, is long enuff to get it right! Or correct (correcting a misplaced “pun”)- What has happened has been 1 executive, legislative & judicial mishap & disaster after another, culminating in Citizens United. It is, by now, more than obvious the SCT majority in that case, weren’t worried about “thinking it thru” OR getting it “correct.” Roberts comes in w/his “justice 4 sale” signs, when he starts belly-aching about not making enuff – U guessed it – & NO, not meeting their quota (which they’ve failed to do in every year since Cons have had the majority); NOT being impartial (which they have not been in 75%-85% of cases, w/ideological under/overtones); NOT depending on precedence (which they’ve ignored habitually, against even THEIR OWN institutional traditions) – MONEY!!! Roberts broadcasts that they need to be PAID was heard loud & clear, w/a whole network of beneficiaries cashing in as a result!!! Who will preside over the case if/when Clarence T.’s wife appears B4 the court on conflict of interest & Judge T. on potential tax evasion charges? Exactly 100 years ago, the issue of vile, wretched money in politics was on center stage. The N.Y. fire, on 9/11/1911 – the single most horrific labor disaster in U.S. history was the impetus behind Teddy Roosevelt being the chief advocate for removing the poisonous influence of money in politics – w/an unanimous SCT in agreement! Obviously unconcerned, this SCT majority is into “elites”, “kings”, “aristocrats” & even “plutocrats” presiding over the “peoples” affairs – b/c the “people” are too busy in-fighting over the scraps falling off the table of the hogs, gorging themselves on greed. If the American people fail to understand the meaning of this article & the subsequent threat to OUR peoples Democracy, we deserve the authoritarian results that are already in process…

  13. Bassicdave February 8, 2012

    Notice the complete absence of all the ronulans and religious nutcases that commented in Cynthia Tucker’s column…they’re nowhere to be found. That’s because they’re lost. Those that know the score are getting eaten alive by their own legislation and those that don’t – the “morans,” if you will, are resorting to blaming Obama for flipping to super-pac money with complete disregard for the reality of this campaign.


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