In 2010, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Citizens United v. F.E.C. that challenged existing limitations on campaign financing. The Court decision in this case has brought about major changes in the political process in America According to End Citizens United.
Now known simply as Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruling permits individuals and organizations to funnel huge amounts of money into political campaigns. Often donations are anonymous. Even when donors are known, there is little transparency or accountability. For example, the Koch brothers are famous for spending hundreds of millions of dollars to elect conservative politicians, and to push for passage of laws they favor. Another issue raised by critics of the Court’s decision is that it treats corporations as people when it comes to election campaign funding.
End Citizens United is a political action committee formed in the summer of 2015. As the name suggests, the primary mission of the group is to work toward the reversal o the Citizens United decision. It also supports other efforts at campaign reform. The people of End Citizens United join a number of other groups opposed to this Supreme Court ruling, including 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
According to the group’s website, it is pledged to maintain transparency about its actions and funding sources. For example, End Citizens United makes all of its Federal Election Commission filings public. The group describes itself as a grassroots movement. There is reason to think they may well be able to tap into widespread populist concern regarding the way elections are conducted in the current climate of limited oversight and unlimited contributions. MSNBC says End Citizen United received donations from 136,000 people over the summer of 2015, with an average donation amount of $14.86. According to MSNBC, this comes to nearly $2 million and puts the PAC on course to raise up to $25 million during the 2016 election cycle.
End Citizens United states that its ultimate goal is the passage of a constitutional amendment reversing Citizens United. This is a formidable undertaking. Passage of an amendment to the Constitution requires a two-thirds vote in the United States Senate. Three-fourths of the states must then ratify the proposed amendment. Making matters worse, there is little enthusiasm for this goal among Republicans. End Citizens United says it will support Democratic Party candidates because Republican leaders are an obstacle to reform. Dr. Rick Hansen, a professor of law and political science at UC Irvine, says that it is more likely that the decision can be overturned by a future Supreme Court that is more sympathetic to campaign finance reform. Hansen also thinks End Citizens United will make a positive contribution by raising public awareness of the issue.