Overturning Citizens United is Necessary to Save Our Democracy

By Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen

There is a direct line from the U.S. Supreme Court’s horrific Citizens United decision — issued 13 years ago this Saturday — to the rise of fascistic movements threatening the very existence of our democracy.

In entrenching the ‘right’ of corporations and the super-rich to spend whatever they choose to influence election outcomes, Citizens United transformed our campaign finance system from flawed to frightful.

Citizens United has entrenched an American oligarchy. As one shocking measure of this oligarchic control: The top 100 donors are responsible for two-thirds of all Super PAC contributions. Just 100 people!

The tiny number of individuals — overwhelmingly white men — and corporations that dominate election spending exert an outsized and undemocratic effect on who runs for office, how candidates campaign, what policies are debated, who wins, and what are considered the boundaries of legitimate policy debate.

It is this system that explains, as much as any other factor, why Americans are denied the policies they overwhelmingly favor: lowering drug prices, raising the minimum wage, protecting clean water, breaking up the Big Banks, making corporations and the rich pay their fair share of taxes, mitigating climate chaos, expanding Medicare, and much more.

The reality and perception of super rich and corporate control of our politics — as well as the failure of the government to address the felt needs of people across the nation — fuels despair and alienation. It creates ripe conditions for conspiracists and demagogues to offer false solutions and appeal to people’s worst instincts. It has fueled the fascistic movements that pose a clear and present danger to our democratic future.

We can’t go on like this — and there’s no reason we should. Citizens United is unmoored from the constitution and basic notions of democracy accountability. It’s time for it to be overturned by a constitutional amendment.

U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) have reintroduced the Democracy for All Amendment to do exactly this. The Democracy for All Amendment would restore the right of We the People to impose reasonable limits on campaign spending. Every member of Congress, regardless of party, should support this amendment and demand its passage this Congress.

The American people overwhelmingly support action. Four in five Americans oppose Citizens United. 22 states and more than 800 cities and towns who have passed resolutions or ballot initiatives calling for a constitutional amendment and more than 5 million have signed petitions calling for an amendment.

Big Money dominance of our elections is the deep corruption that breeds cynicism. Ratifying the Democracy for All amendment as the Constitution’s 28th amendment would begin to restore the faith of the American people in their government and set us on the path to a deepened and expanded democracy.



Public Citizen champions the public interest in the halls of power. We fight to ensure that government works for the people — not big corporations.

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Public Citizen

Public Citizen champions the public interest in the halls of power. We fight to ensure that government works for the people — not big corporations.