The now notorious Citizens United case — the vehicle that a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court used four years ago to drive recklessly over precedent on the way to wrecking federal campaign funding restrictions — continues to inject more money into politics with no favors done to the American people.
Since the court ruled, U.S. democracy has become increasingly dominated by super PACs, big-spending political action committees legally independent from the campaigns they help. As money talks, the interests of ordinary people recede. Now Pennsylvania law is threatened by the spreading poison.
Taking its cue from Citizens United, the Washington, D.C.-based General Majority PAC took direct aim at Pennsylvania law in a suit filed last week in federal court. An attorney for the super PAC wrote, “After Citizens United, it is clear that bans on independent expenditures by corporations or other groups of people, including labor unions and unincorporated associations, are unconstitutional.”
Of course, that will be for the courts to decide, but another consideration comes to mind. After the court ruled in early 2010, cynics called it a victory for wealthy Republicans, but in fact both parties have deep-pocketed supporters (in the case of Democrats, unions included). Indeed, any conservatives who still support Citizens United because of imagined partisan advantage might want to consider the plaintiff in the Pennsylvania lawsuit.
General Majority PAC, formerly called the Fund for Jobs, Growth and Security, is focused on electing Democratic state legislators. It seeks an immediate injunction to begin operating before this year’s primary and general elections.
Although this PAC can’t be faulted for playing by the new rules, this step is not cause for celebration. The fact that Citizens United is an equal-opportunity mischief maker doesn’t make the Supreme Court decision any less bad.