Elections, Incorporated

Unfettered campaign financing is the rule in Minnesota and nationally.

Daily Editorial Board

Last JanuaryâÄôs Citizens United Supreme Court decision unraveled a century of precedent by declaring that corporations and unions âÄî even foreign-controlled ones âÄî have a First Amendment right to unrestricted, anonymous campaign spending on American elections.
It should give us great pause that President Barack Obama, who has hardly been harsh with corporate America, warns that the Citizens United decision is an inroad to a âÄúcorporate takeover of our democracy.âÄù
Now, even the right of the public to know where and how much these special interests are spending is at stake. Last week the U.S. Senate failed to advance legislation that would merely require special interests to disclose these essential details.
In Minnesota, we have such a disclosure law in place âÄî for the time being. A group of Republicans supporting Tom Emmer for governor recently filed suit arguing that MinnesotaâÄôs disclosure laws were unconstitutional, though a federal judge upheld them last week.
It doesnâÄôt all begin with Citizens United, though; campaign finance has been in need of reform long before this year. Local elections are being unduly influenced from out of state âÄî as in MinnesotaâÄôs 6th District Bachmann-Clark race âÄî and personal wealth is used to disproportionate advantage as in Mark DaytonâÄôs run for governor or Meg WhitmanâÄôs in California.
Amid all the gathering armies of wealth and influence, one thing seems sure: once itâÄôs in play, money has a way of entrenching itself in politics. Meanwhile, the voice of a single American vote isnâÄôt getting any louder. Without fast and sweeping campaign finance reform, we risk it shrinking to a whisper.