Citizens United 10 Years Later: Ciara Torres-Spelliscy

Professor Ciara Torres-Spelliscy testified about what we have learned about the impact of the Citizens United Decision after ten years. The full testimony, including disturbing information about the vicious cycle caused by more dark money raising the cost of campaigns, thus needing more dark money is below. An excerpt:

Nearly a decade ago, I told Congress after Citizens United v. FEC that I predicted two problems with inviting corporate money into our democracy:a lack of consent and a lack of transparency, which is sometimes known as the dark money problem. I regret to say that both of these problems remain as unsolved as they were ten years ago.

As I and other scholars have noted, the Supreme Court in Citizens United displayed a surprising lack of appreciation of how corporate governance actually works in the real world. As the Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court noted, “the Supreme Court ignored, or misunderstood, the traditional corporate law concept of the corporation and thereby subjected millions of American investors to suffer the involuntary use of their entrusted capital for speech that has no rational connection to their decision to buy stock. That is bad corporate law making bad constitutional law.”

In the previous presidential election in 2016, the top donor to Jeb Bush’s Super PAC Right to Rise was a corporation called CV Starr & Co, a private subsidiary of the Starr Companies, an insurance firm. CV Starr gave Right to Rise $10 million. Many corporations, LLCs and business partnerships, An additional $2.3 million came from Rooney Holdings Inc. Another in the $1 million
club was Jasper Reserves LLC. Yet another million-dollar donor to Right to Rise was NextEra Energy Inc. NextEra is a horse of different color because it is a publicly traded company.

That is just a snap shot of corporate spending in one election through one candidate’s Super PAC. According to Open Secrets, looking over the past decade, “36 companies on the S&P 500 contributed $25,000 or more to super PACs since 2012. The largest donors on that list are Republican-backing oil & gas companies such as Chevron and NextEra Energy. Corporations gave $301 million to super PACs and hybrid PACs from the 2012 to 2018 cycles, 87 percent of which went to conservative groups. These contributions made up 10 percent of funding to these groups in the 2012 cycle, a high water mark. That figure dipped to just 5 percent in 2018.” [footnotes omitted]


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