New Legislation Passes, Big Business’ Role in Politics Grows
In an unprecedented and truly momentous move, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, Jan. 21, that corporations and unions are now permitted to contribute as much money as they see fit to candidates they support.
The case, Citizens United v. FEC, overturns a 63-year-old law that was initially put in place to curb the amount of influence big business had on politics.
The bill passed with a 5-4 decision under grounds of First Amendment rights; conservatives of the court stated that limiting corporations’ spending is essentially encroaching upon their freedom of speech.
“What this means is money equals speech,” explained former Co-President of the UCI Young Democrats David Lorango.
Republicans hailed the win as a boon for freedom of speech while Democrats scorned it as an opportunity for big business takeover.
“Conservatives say that limiting free speech is bad for a democracy,” Lorango said, who identifies himself as a Democrat leaning towards the left. “They say less federal involvement is good for our democracy, because it increases discourse in the political spectrum by not limiting speech.”
According to the LA Times, President Barack Obama described the ruling as a “major win for Big Oil, Wall Street banks, and health insurance companies.”
Despite the ping-pong game happening on Capitol Hill between the GOP and the Democrats, one can be sure that this ruling will produce major implications.
One of the worries Lorango expresses concerns the role money will now play among political candidates, especially in advertising.
Corporations and unions are still barred from giving money directly to candidates, but they can pour as much cash as they so please into the candidate’s advertisements.
“We’re going to be bombarded with ads,” Lorango said. “All this fundraising plays a huge role in the candidacy. You can see that the person who has more money has an upper hand. Opinions will heavily influence candidates – if you have more money you will be able to have more influence.”
Some are questioning whether or not this will actually accelerate any serious negativity in politics.
“The reality is that our political institutions are already completely beholden to and controlled by large corporate interests,” Political commentator Glenn Greenwald wrote in his Salon.com opinion piece.
Fourth-year criminology, law and society major, Alberto Quintero, who says he is conservative Republican, agreed with Greenwald.
“If companies are allowed to give as much as they want, people will feel the need to match it. I would feel as though I would have to raise more money than the next guy, but that’s what politics already is,” Quintero said.
Still, the most common reaction concerning the bill is one of extreme trepidation.
Second-year undeclared major, Kelsey Duckstad, who describes herself as moderate Libertarian, claims her biggest fear lies across US lines; she is mostly worried about international influence.
“Foreign oil companies donating money to candidates could be bad. They could be trying to just influence our politics. A lot of foreigners say they don’t like our politics but they shouldn’t be able to give money to try and change it,” Duckstad said.
The direction that this decision could take is still unknown.
Lorango is convinced that the ruling will exacerbate politics.
“Anyone who says that things aren’t going to get worse isn’t looking at it reasonably. If it didn’t matter, why would it be taken to the supreme court?” Lorango said.
Duckstad also expresses feelings of worry.
“We might not know which interests are running our country. It could lose a sense of confidence in our system.”