Citizens United Has Changed Our Democracy. Will It Lead to a Populist Awakening? or a Corporate Recapturing of U.S. Elections?
You may be one of those people who believe there is too much money in politics. (Polling suggests there are many such people—a vast majority of Americans, in fact.) You may believe that the larger the financial contribution, the greater the chance it will corrupt your representative in Congress, or even your president. You may believe that there are too many political advertisements on television, too many groups with blandly patriotic names trying to change your mind about energy or Medicare or national defense. You may even believe that the nation’s founders would be repelled by the idea of corporations and billionaires pouring millions of dollars into political campaigns. It is reasonable—it is quite respectable—to believe these things.
But if you are one of these people, what you believe is turning out not to matter very much.
What Jim Bopp Jr. believes is turning out to matter a whole lot more, and he believes the exact opposite. He believes in more money, bigger donations, more corporations and billionaires and outside groups making more noise, openly or anonymously. He believes, in fact, that there can be no such thing as an “outside” group in American democracy—he believes that’s the whole point of the republic.
It wasn’t so long ago that just about everyone who paid attention to how we pay for politics, whether liberal or conservative, thought Jim Bopp was nuts. They certainly thought so back when he first came storming out of the right-to-life movement in the 1980s, a no-name lawyer with a street-corner practice in Indiana swinging the First Amendment like a hatchet, striking at the Federal Election Commission, then at state government after state government—150 cases and counting—and taking his cause to the Supreme Court itself. Where others saw reasonable limits on politicking, he saw shocking suppression of freedom of speech, whether the stage was as big as a presidential campaign or as small as a student-council race at the University of California at Irvine. (He once won a case for a student candidate who’d exceeded the university’s spending limits by shelling out too much at Kinko’s.)