It is no secret that transparency and accountability are key ingredients that are vital to the success of democracy. The people who cast the ballots that allow a politician to win an election deserve to have elected representatives who are open about their activities and to answer to the people who put them in power in the first place. At its best democracy is intended to be an on-going dialogue and collective project that constituents and elected officials engage in together.
In an ideal situation constituents are able to voice the concerns that they have about economic, social and political aspects of their communities that come under a politician’s purview and a politician is supposed to listen to these concerns and use the power that they have as a member of a legislative body or as a government official to address those concerns in a way that is amenable to the community according to politifact.com. In a healthy democracy this is how the relationship between an elected official and their constituents is intended to function however there have been some important developments in our political system that have caused this arrangement to go awry. One of these developments is a high profile Supreme Court case that is known as Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission.
The court case, which is often referred to colloquially merely as Citizens United, arguably harmed the integrity of the electoral process by weakening laws that were meant to protect it. One of the most disastrous outcomes of the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United was the fact that it allowed large amounts of political contributions to flow into the campaign process from sources such as corporations and labor unions. The problems that arise from this are the fact that corporations are far more likely to have access to more resources and money that they can funnel towards the candidate of their choice through an organization that is known as a Super political action committee.
The campaign finance laws that were in place prior to the institution of the new rules ushered in by the Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission case placed limitations on the kinds of organizations that could contribute to the political campaigns of candidates who were running for office. The older campaign finance laws also placed much-needed restrictions on the amount of money that individuals could contribute to political campaigns. Fortunately a group that is called End Citizens United is making efforts to roll back the damage that the Citizens United case has caused to the political system. End Citizen’s United highlighted a story by the news publication Buzzfeed about a decision made by New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand with regard to donations from corporate PACs. In January of 2018 Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stopped receiving donations from corporate PACs according to End Citizens United.