If you are wondering how the Supreme Court’s devastating decision in Citizens United will be interpreted by lower courts, wonder no more. It’s being read as the elimination of concerns about corruption in politics.
You read that correctly. In comments from the bench during arguments before the D.C. Circuit Court, the nine-member panel indicated that the Citizens United v. FEC opinion had radically subverted campaign finance restrictions.
It was abundantly clear that each of the nine judges was thoroughly familiar with every detail of the Citizens United decision. And one of the most important developments of the hearing was the degree to which the circuit judges were questioning the government’s ability to justify any restraints on independent groups based on a fear that they might corrupt politics.
Previous to the Citizens United ruling, campaign finance restrictions were authorized to reduce corruption or the appearance of corruption in politics. But the judges of the D.C. panel seemed to believe corruption was no longer a valid concern. The Supreme Court abolished all that. Justice Thomas B. Griffith told Federal Election Commission lawyers defending against an independent “527” group, SpeechNow.org:
You’re trying to avoid Citizens United. This is a new world: corruption means a lot less than it did before….What is the whole point of circumvention if it is not related to corruption?
If corruption in no longer a valid legal reason for campaign finance regulation, there is no choice but to amend the U.S. Constitution. Under the Citizens United opinion, it appears that the purchase of government by corporations is now okay. Needless to say, the Framers wrote the Constitution in such a way as to prevent this very thing.