Rep. Grijalva: Citizens United Undermines Our Democracy

January 21, 2016
In less than two weeks, voters in Iowa will cast the first ballots of the 2016 election. As county clerks tally their votes, our nation will begin once again its loud, hard-fought, at times messy, but uniquely American experiment in democracy.
Nearly 240 years of relatively peaceful self-governance—of the people, and by the people—should make every American proud. But mounting threats to our free and fair elections instead leave many wary and disenchanted, if not outright disenfranchised. As President Barack Obama cautioned in his final State of the Union address: “Democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.” With today marking the sixth anniversary of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision, those fears have never been more well-founded.
Citizens United opened the floodgates to unrestricted special-interest spending in our campaigns and our politics. While you and I can only spend $2,700 on a given candidate per election—and while the reality of pocketbook economics for many households means they will give less than that—unregulated super PACs can spend with impunity, allowing the mega-donors funding them to influence elections anonymously and without restraint.
In 2012, super PACs and other special interests spent more than $1 billion—more than $300 million of which from undisclosed donors—to influence the election’s outcome. That’s three times the amount of outside spending as either the 2008 or 2010 election. Fast forward to the current election, and the picture is far worse. As of Dec. 9, 2015, super PACs were responsible for 81% of all TV ads in the Republican presidential primaries—a 71% increase from 2011, and a whopping 12,000% increase over 2007. If you’re sick of the political ads already, brace yourself for the coming year.
Read Rep. Grijalva's full op-ed here.