In her 2018 bid for reelection, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts can count on the support of End Citizens United. The political action committee, whose primary goal is to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United vs. F.E.C. decision, issued its official endorsement of the senator on July 26, once again citing her reputation for being a strong consumer advocate as one of the many reasons for its support. The organization and the senator are both actively involved in not only overturning Citizens United but in passing an amendment to ensure that nothing like it happens again.
The Citizens United decision was a legitimate disaster for the state of American democracy. The ruling put an end to the long-time ban on corporations and unions from influencing politics. With the decision, these groups and other special interests can now pour unlimited sums of money into advertisements and other political tools for influencing the outcomes of elections. Although the ruling technically did not affect how contributions work, as these remain illegal for corporations to make directly, it created a convenient workaround that has essentially led to the establishment of shadow political parties.
End Citizens United has good reason to put its support behind Senator Warren. In fact, it has many of them. The endorsement was made via an official press release that was issued on July 27. The press release notes that Senator Warren has led the charge in Senate and across the country to reform the campaign finance system. During her career, she’s promoted rules requiring government contractors and public corporations to disclose their political spending activities. Throughout her career, the senator has actively protected consumers from manipulation and fraud. For her, then, Citizens United is a true catastrophe.
Although the main reason that End Citizens United continues to endorse Warren is because she has pledged to overturn Citizens United, the organization has plenty of other reasons to support her as well. Almost immediately after the ruling was handed down by the Supreme Court in 2010, Senator Warren called for it to be overturned. However, simply overturning the ruling would fall short of the senator’s goals, as it would do nothing to prevent the same thing from happening in the future.
For this reason, Senator Warren supports a constitutional amendment that officially overturns the Citizens United ruling. As an original co-sponsor of the Democracy for All Amendment, she has maintained a proactive approach to solving this issue from the beginning. The proposed amendment was sponsored by more than 130 members of Congress, including Representatives Jamie Raskin, Ted Deutch and James P. McGovern as well as Senator Tom Udall. In addition to helping to draft the amendment, Senator Warren represents the commonwealth of Massachusetts, whose legislature has officially called on Congress to enact the amendment. More than 200 communities around Massachusetts joined the legislature in this call.
Senator Warren is also well-known for her support of the People’s Pledge, an initiative that was enacted in Massachusetts for the 2012 election cycle. The People’s Pledge helps to keep outside political contributions out of Massachusetts elections. One way in which it accomplishes this is by requiring any candidate who benefits from an outside commercial to donate at least half the value of the commercial to charity. The goal of the pledge is to ensure that the people of Massachusetts hear directly from political candidates rather than the PACs that support them.
The senator’s push to overturn Citizen’s United is just the latest in a long history of stepping up to the plate for consumers. She created the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau as a way to put checks on credit card companies, collection agencies and other groups that often trample on citizens’ rights.
End Citizens United’s endorsement of Senator Warren is more than just talk. Through its endorsement, the organization has pledged to support the senator’s reelection bid in 2018, and it will do so in a number of ways. For one thing, End Citizens United has more than 100,000 active members in Massachusetts. The PAC is connecting these members with the Warren campaign, and it will reach out to its network of more than 360,000 grassroots donors to provide the senator with the necessary resources. Through contributions averaging just $14, the group expects to raise around $35 million for the 2018 cycle, according to USA Today.
Citizens United did not occur in a vacuum. A long history of campaign finance reform precedes it. The Tillman Act of 1907 was the first attempt at campaign finance reform, as it banned corporations from providing funding to federal campaigns. 20 years later, the Taft-Hartley Act extended this rule to labor unions. Neither law was enforced very well, but that changed with the enactment of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. This act required the full disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures.
The 1971 law also sought to place limits on media spending by campaigns. However, that part of the law was ruled unconstitutional. The court ruled that “spending is speech” and is therefore protected–even if the entity “speaking” is a corporation. This is precisely where the concept of corporations are people originated, and it has been one of the most damaging concepts for consumer protection in history.
Thanks to the Citizens United ruling, corporations and other special interests can now funnel unlimited amounts of untraceable money to individual candidates. The fight to overturn the disastrous ruling got a lot more serious on March 1, 2015, with the establishment of End Citizens United. The PAC is funded entirely by grassroots donors, and it seeks to not only overturn Citizens United but to reform the American campaign finance system as a whole.
End Citizens United pushes to overturn the ruling in a number of ways. One, of course, is by endorsing and helping to elect campaign finance reform fighters. Senator Warren is undoubtedly among the best known and most vocal of that group, so it’s not surprising that End Citizens United has thrown its support behind her again. The group also supports the passage of state ballot initiatives whose aim is the overturning of Citizens United. End Citizens United also works to raise awareness about the problem of money in politics, helping to make it a top priority for the country.
Through its endorsement of Senator Elizabeth Warren, End Citizens United isn’t just supporting her reelection bid. It is supporting the ongoing fight for the overturning of a bill that has upended the American campaign finance system as we know it. It seems far off now, but the 2018 election will be here soon. By supporting one another, Senator Warren and ECU are more likely to achieve their objectives.