Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Today is the LAST DAY of this Mid-Year Campaign. This is our hour of need.
If you value independent journalism, please support Common Dreams.

TODAY is the last day to meet our goal -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year.

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), with the late Rep. Elijah Cummings behind him, speaks in support of HR 1 at the U.S. Capitol on January 4, 2019. (Photo: Getty Images)

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), with the late Rep. Elijah Cummings behind him, speaks in support of HR 1 at the U.S. Capitol on January 4, 2019. (Photo: Getty Images)

As Citizens United Turns 10, We Need Candidates Who Will Fight to Get Money Out of Politics

In the decade since this disastrous Supreme Court ruling, just 11 wealthy people have made 20 percent of super PAC donations.

Tiffany Muller

 by Inequality.org

Ten years ago this week, the Supreme Court released its disastrous 2010 Citizens United decision.

The court, either through remarkable naivety or sheer malevolence, essentially married two terrible ideas: that “money equals speech” and that “corporations are people.” The ruling put a for sale sign on our democracy, opening up a flood of corporate, special interest, and even foreign money into our politics.

Through Citizens United and a collection of other terrible and related decisions, the Court made a bad situation worse. We saw the proliferation of super PACs, which can accept and spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections, and the rise of dark money, which is undisclosed political spending that can come from any special interest, even foreign countries.

In the 10 years since the decision, there’s been $4.5 billion dollars in outside spending (spending from outside interest groups and not candidates for office) in elections, compared to $750 million spent in the 20 years prior to the case. From 2000-2008, there were only 15 federal races where outside spending exceeded candidate spending. In the same amount of time following Citizens United, this occurred in 126 races. Since the decision, almost half of all outside spending is dark money that has no or limited disclosure of its donors.

And that money is not coming from the farmers suffering through Donald Trump’s trade war or the fast-food workers fighting for a living wage. It’s coming from the wealthiest among us, people often with very different priorities than the majority of Americans. In fact, a full one-fifth of all super PAC donations in the past 10 years have come from just 11 people.

This has led to an unresponsive and dysfunctional government. We can’t make any progress on issues like gun safety, health care costs, or climate change. Politicians are in the pockets of their big donors. Foreign influence goes unreported and unchecked.  And we’re left with the most corrupt president in American history, who’s embroiled in a series of scandals that threaten our prosperity, safety, and security.

To name just a few of these scandals: Trump urged a foreign country to investigate his political opponents. His lawyer’s “associates” illegally funneled money into his super PAC through a sham corporation. The National Rifle Association spent tens of millions of dollars in unreported “dark” money to elect him while also serving as a Russian asset.

Trump and his accomplices should be held accountable, through Congressional impeachment, the judicial process, or both. But we must also elect new leaders who will pass real, meaningful anti-corruption reforms.

Thanks to a class of reformers elected in 2018, we’ve already begun that process. Last year, the House of Representatives passed the For the People Act (H.R. 1).

H.R. 1 would strengthen ethics rules and enforcement; reduce the influence of big money while empowering individual, small-dollar donors; and, along with a bill to restore the Voting Rights Act, protect every American’s right to vote. It also calls for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

Sadly, this bill is being blocked by Mitch McConnell in the Senate.

These reforms are all popular with the American people. We can unrig the system and restore that faith by taking action to elect candidates who will fight for these priorities – and by pressuring elected officials to act.

That means attending town halls and asking politicians if they will make reform their top priority, signing up to volunteer for candidates who are running on this issue – and chipping in a small donation if you can. Join groups like End Citizens United or Let America Vote that are pushing back against the rigged system and standing with candidates who put people ahead of corporate special interests.

Together, we can restore trust in government, prevent corruption, strengthen our national security, and ensure Washington truly works for the people.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Tiffany Muller

Tiffany Muller

Tiffany Muller is the President of End Citizens United, which is dedicated to getting Big Money out of politics and fixing the rigged system in Washington, D.C. so the government works for all Americans. Follow her at @Tiffany_Muller

TODAY is the last day of our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Texas Supreme Court Allows Century-Old Abortion Ban to Take Effect

"Extremist politicians are on a crusade to force Texans into pregnancy and childbirth against their will, no matter how devastating the consequences."

Jake Johnson ·


'What's There to Even Discuss?' Omar Says Free, Universal School Meals Should Be Permanent

"We have an opportunity to prove that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people can still deliver big things. And we can feed tens of millions of hungry kids while we do it."

Jake Johnson ·


'Stark Betrayal': Biden Administration Floats New Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling

"This is the third time since November the Biden administration has announced new oil and gas leasing plans on the Friday before a holiday," said one climate advocate. "They're ashamed, and they should be."

Jake Johnson ·


As US Rolls Back Reproductive Rights, Sierra Leone Moves to Decriminalize Abortion

"I'm hopeful today's announcement gives activists in the U.S., and especially Black women given the shared history, a restored faith that change is possible and progress can be made."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Indefensible': Outrage as New Reporting Shines Light on Biden Deal With McConnell

The president has reportedly agreed to nominate an anti-abortion Republican to a lifetime judgeship. In exchange, McConnell has vowed to stop blocking two Biden picks for term-limited U.S. attorney posts.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo