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Why Overturning Citizens United Isn’t Enough

You don't have to think our democracy works

perfectly to be appalled at Donald Trump's attack on it.

Amidst all the other headline-grabbing pronouncements in Wednesday night’s debate, Hillary Clinton mentioned the importance of overturning Citizens United. While this is encouraging, focusing on Citizens United is not enough; our campaign finance system was broken well before 2010. If Clinton is serious about reducing the role of money in politics, she should appoint Supreme Court justices willing to revisit Buckley v. Valeo, a 1976 decision that said (among other things) third parties could spend unlimited amounts to influence the outcome of an election, and First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, a decision two years later that struck down state attempts to limit corporate spending to affect ballot initiatives. Those cases formed the basis for our inability to regulate money in politics.

Moreover, altering Supreme Court case law is not enough. To ensure fair elections it is essential to pass public financing of congressional elections, create independent redistricting commissions, and reduce lobbyist influence over public policy.

In their discussion of the Supreme Court, both candidates also failed to mention Shelby County v. Holder (2013), the case that gutted the Voting Rights Act — arguably the most important piece of civil rights legislation ever passed. Since this disastrous decision, states across the country have passed anti-democratic measures that mandate voter IDs, enact draconian voter registration requirements, reduce early voting, and eliminate preregistration for minors (among other measures). The next president must address this democratic cr