NO ADVERTISING, GOVERNMENT OR CORPORATE FUNDING

  • Latest News
  • Pitch a Story
  • Work with a Journalist
  • Join the Blog Squad
  • Afghanistan
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Baltimore
  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • Europe
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
  • Russia
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Health Care
  • Military
  • Occupy
  • Organize This
  • Reality Asserts Itself
  • US Politics
  • Citizens United 4 Years Later


    Briffault: Private wealth of individuals and spending by super PACs, not just for-profit corporations, are spending huge sums in electoral politics -   January 22, 2014
    Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here

    Audio

      Share to Twitter
    Share to Facebook




    Amongst "independent" media the only one which (so far) has served only insight and versatility. - Håkan
    Log in and tell us why you support TRNN

    Bio

    Richard Briffault is Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation at Columbia Law School. He is the co-author of a casebook, State and Local Government Law; author of Balancing Acts: The Reality Behind State Balanced Budget Requirements; and author of Dollars and Democracy: A Blueprint for Campaign Finance Reform, the report of the Commission on Campaign Finance Reform of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. He is also the author of numerous law review articles on local government law, state-local relations, campaign finance reform, and voting rights. 

    Transcript

    Citizens United 4 Years LaterJAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: This is The Real News, and I'm Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

    Tuesday marks the fourth anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Citizens United. It was determined corporations and unions have the same free-speech rights as people, therefore removed restrictions on corporate and union spending on elections.

    Now joining us to discuss the fourth anniversary of Citizens United is Richard Briffault. He's the author of many works, including Dollars and Democracy: A Blueprint for Campaign Finance Reform.

    And just a note for our viewers: Richard is joining us on the phone due to technical difficulties.

    Thank you so much for joining us, Richard.

    RICHARD BRIFFAULT, PROFESSOR OF LEGISLATION, COLOMBIA LAW SCHOOL: Thank you for having me.

    NOOR: So, Richard, four years after this historic, landmark Supreme Court decision, tell us exactly what has been the impact of this decision on elections in the United States.

    BRIFFAULT: Okay. It's a little too hard to say that for everything. And often what happens with something like this is the impact is felt more dramatically sort of lower down in smaller elections in some jurisdictions. So, as you indicated, what Citizens United said was that corporations and unions now have the right to spend in unlimited amounts in elections. They still can't give to candidates, but they can spend on their own independently or, you know, with other groups.

    We didn't see that much corporate money in the presidential election or in the congressional elections the last two times, in fact, and when we did see corporate money, it was often, you know, family businesses, closely held businesses, not big corporations. Very few Fortune 500 companies. There may be more of those involved at the state and local level, but that data, it hasn't been gathered as much.

    In some odd ways, the corporations that are most active are actually nonprofit corporations, which have been able to serve as vehicles for the spending by very wealthy individuals, who could have spent before but would have been spending in a very open way. Now, by setting up super PACs, by setting up a 501(c)(4) nonprofit so-called groups for civic betterment, social welfare organizations, they can kind of mingle their money with other people's money under a group with a name like's Americans for Good Government and without being effectively disclosed. So the real upsurge has been less big business money, although there's some of that, and more actually in wealthy individuals, who legally could have done this before, but maybe now feel more comfortable doing it because they can run their money through nonprofit corporations.

    NOOR: Now, Stephen Colbert had a hilarious range of skits about these super PACs.

    BRIFFAULT: That's exactly the kind of name that these organizations use and that don't tell you anything about what they're about.

    NOOR: And so what kind of scale of spending are we talking about here?

    BRIFFAULT: Well, at the federal elections last time, we were talking in the, I don't know, $200-300 million range, which sounds like a lot, but it's actually still only a small percentage of the total amount of money in elections. So it's hard to say, because it's not all effectively reported. Probably--and even if it's more than that, it's probably not more than 10 or 15 percent of what was spent in the presidential congressional elections last time. There's still a huge amount of other money that's in the system.

    NOOR: So a doomsday scenario, as some had predicted, would you agree hasn't quite materialized, at least yet?

    BRIFFAULT: It hasn't materialized. I think most big companies, even though they clearly have the wealth, most what are called publicly held companies, companies that have shareholders and are traded on the stock exchange or stock exchanges are kind of nervous about being out there in a very public way. I don't know if you saw the incident involving the Target Corporation in Minnesota. They gave some money to an organization which in turn was using that money to support a candidate for governor. Their view was that he was good for them on business issues. But he also had a very kind of an anti-gay rights, anti-marriage equality platform. And they prided themselves on being pro-equality, and they were very embarrassed by it. And I think the example of--and there was a boycott, there was a lot of attention to it. I think the example of what can happen with bad publicity may mean that many corporations are reluctant to get involved--not 100 percent, but you don't see very many big companies getting directly involved in at least federal elections.

    NOOR: And I think it's important to, you know, bring up the point for those that did predict or do say that we're in this kind of--we're in a situation where we won't have democracy until this is repealed. What's your response to that? Because there's always been money in politics in America.

    BRIFFAULT: Yeah. I think actually it's the wrong target to aim at. It's not the corporations. It's the money. And it's not only corporations that have a lot of money in our system. You know, in the last election, the biggest spenders, you know, the people who pumped $100 million of their own money into the election, were individuals. You know, a single wealthy couple put $100 million dollars in the election. That's a lot of money. And there are people in this country who have that much money. So all you need is a handful of extremely wealthy people. And if you only target corporations, you're also missing other very wealthy individuals.

    NOOR: And we always like to talk about solutions on The Real News. Talk about what is being done around the country to challenge this and what can happen. Just what are the laws, as far as the laws that states can pass, to limit spending in local but also federal elections?

    BRIFFAULT: Okay. Well, given the current Supreme Court, unless there's a constitutional amendment or unless there's a dramatic change in the Court, neither of which I expect in the near future--and it's very hard to get a constitutional amendment passed, and certainly the current Congress is not going to even take the first step. Leaving aside a dramatic change in constitutional law, you can't limit spending.

    So the two kinds of strategies that are being pursued at the state and local level--'cause, again, Congress is not going to do anything in the near-term--one is better disclosure of the money that's out there and trying to reach these secretive organizations, the dark-money organizations that tell you--the Americans for a Better Tomorrow, who say, okay, we just spent $10 million, but won't tell you where they're getting their money. And many states are moving to improve disclosure of those people.

    Second is public funding, which doesn't limit the amount of money the rich or that corporations can spend, but to some extent can dilute its impact by giving other candidates money that's--taking small donations and matching it, often multiple match, a 4-to-1 or a 5-to-1 match, in a way that empowers relatively small people, people with small resources, is the second thing.

    And third, some states are doing a lot of work on what's called pay-to-play, lowering the ability of people who do business with the government--government contractors and others--to give money in connection with elections. It's not clear whether they can extend that to this independent spending, but that would be something that could be tried.

    So those would be the three things--better disclosure of these independent groups, more public funding, which, again, doesn't stop anybody from putting money in but, hopefully, dilutes the impact, and some kind of targeted restrictions, particularly on people who have direct stakes in government action 'cause they do business with government.

    NOOR: And there's also a move to amend this Supreme Court decision.

    BRIFFAULT: There's a move to amend the Constitution. That's a long-term strategy, which is--nothing wrong with that, but I think you've got to be prepared to spend a very long time on that. To amend the Constitution, you've got to get it through--get two-thirds majorities in both houses of Congress. You know, the current constitution, you're not going to get it for sure through one of the houses of Congress [incompr.] Congress. Now, that Congress can change. And then you've got to get it passed, ratified by three-quarters of the states. So this is definitely a long-term strategy and not something that's going to happen any time soon. But it's--you know, I'm not saying people shouldn't try it. I'm just saying it's a long-term strategy.

    NOOR: Well, thank you so much for joining us.

    BRIFFAULT: Okay. Glad to be helpful.

    NOOR: You can follow us @therealnews on Twitter. Tweet me questions and comments @jaisalnoor.

    Thank you so much for joining us.

    End

    DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


    Comments

    Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at contact@therealnews.com

    Comments


    Latest Stories


    Affirmative Action Ruling Will Further Racial Inequality
    Evidence for Russian Involvement in East Ukraine Based on Shoddy Journalism
    Ivy League Study: The General Public Has Virtually No Influence on Policy
    The Modern History of Venezuela and Popular Democracy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (9/9)
    An Asia "Pivot" Should Mean Cooperating with China to Solve the Global Environmental Crisis
    Assessing the U.S. Environmental Movement
    Intimidation and Political Interference Goes Unpunished in UAW Case
    Exclusive Investigation Uncovers How BP Uses Bribes To Do Business
    The Modern History of Venezuela, The Protests and Democracy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (8/9)
    Greek Politics 4 Years After The Financial Crisis
    CBO Report Confirms U.S. Deficit Back to Normal Level
    Israel Uses Refugees as "Currency" in Arms Trade with Africa
    Who Will Pay for Climate Change Disaster?
    Canada Shifts to Right Under Harper, Mimicking the United States
    The Savings and Loan Crisis Demonstrates the Importance of Glass-Steagall
    South African Platinum Miner's Struggle Challenges ANC Leadership
    TRNN Original Report: Manning Determined to Fight Back After Army Upholds 35- Year Sentence
    Hundredth Anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre
    The Bundy Ranch Standoff Demonstrates Values Shared by Corporations and the Far Right
    The Resegregation of American Schools
    The Modern History of Venezuela, Why Still So Much Crime? - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (7/9)
    What Role Has Russia Played in Eastern Ukraine?
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (2/2)
    University Sit-In Targets World's Largest Private Coal Company
    The Modern History of Venezuela and the Need for a Post-Oil Economy - Edgardo Lander on RAI (6/9)
    Can Johns Hopkins Afford to Pay A Living Wage? (1/2)
    One Percent of Environmentalists Killings Lead to Convictions
    Investigation Finds Former Ukraine President Not Responsible For Sniper Attack on Protestors
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Ukraine Transitional Gov't Moves Militarily To Reclaim Seized Buildings
    IPCC Report Flawed By Narrow Focus on Carbon Emissions
    The Modern History of Venezuela: The Bolivarian Revolution - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (5/9)
    Obama Signs Directives to Reduce the Gender Wage Gap
    Eastern Ukraine Lacks Political Representation in Kiev
    Demystifying the Role of Mitigation in the Most Recent IPCC Report
    Hypersurveillance State Won't Prevent Another Boston Marathon Bombing
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Univ. of Maine Faculty Reinstated After Students Protest Against Cuts
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1908 to 1973 - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (2/9)
    IMF Will Address Global Inequality, Says Managing Director Christine Lagarde
    Raising Big Banks' Leverage Ratio Good, But Not Nearly Enough
    TRNN Replay: Austerity Road to 19th Century
    Has Palestinian Maneuvering Revived Peace Talks?
    Late Jackson Mayor Lumumba's Son Wins Primary to Replace His Father, Runoff Election Ahead
    Quebecers Reject PQ and Elect a Liberal Government Representing Big Business
    TRNN Debate: Decriminalization vs. Legalization
    The Beginning of the Chavez Era - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (4/9)
    "Off With His Head": Court Upholds Obama's Power to Kill
    Workers at Nation's Top Hospital Strike For Fair Wages
    From Exile to Radicalization in Venezuela - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (1/9)
    Rwanda 20 Years Later: Genocide, Western Plunder of Congo, and President Kagame
    Ukrainian Protesters in the East Demand More Autonomy From Kiev Government
    Hunger Strikers Demand President Obama Halt His Record 2 Million Deportations
    Indian Parliamentary Elections - A Primer With Vijay Prashad
    West Looks to Carve Up Ukraine & Privatize Industries Held by Kleptocrats
    Where Are Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations Headed?
    The Multiple Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia (5/5)
    Do the Afghan Presidential Elections Signify Progress?
    Republican Presidential Hopefuls Pay Homage to Billionaire Casino Tycoon Sheldon Adelson
    Will Extremist Lieberman Become Israel's Next Prime Minister?
    Why do the Saudis Want the US to Attack Iran? (4/5)
    Immigrant Advocates and Families Tell President Obama 'Not One More'
    Elections, Pipelines, and Protests - The Canada Panel
    Chris Hedges on "Israel's War on American Universities"
    Baltimore Residents Decry Lack of Affordable Housing
    Yellen Talks the Talk But Will She Walk the Walk?
    Hopkins Hospital Workers Speak Out against "Poverty Wages"
    Will Venezuela's New Floating Exchange Rate Curb Inflation?
    The European Central Bank's War on Wages is Pushing Europe's Economy to the Brink
    Supreme Court Decision Opens Floodgates for More Campaign Cash
    Charles Keating, the Financier Behind the Savings and Loan Scandal, Dies at 90
    Saudi Arabia and the al-Qaeda Monster (3/5)
    Maryland Residents Voice Opposition to Natural Gas Fracking Export Facility
    Supreme Court Ruling Gives Wealthy Individuals More Influence Over Elections
    What are the Saudis Afraid Of? - Madawi Al-Rasheed (2/5)
    Baltimore's MICA Adjunct Professors Set to Vote on Unionization
    Boycott of Israel Moving to Next Level?
    Hypocrisy Dressed Up as "Realism" Justifies American Alliance with Saudi Dictatorship
    Immigration Reform in the Shadows of Cesar Chavez's Legacy
    Leaked Senate Report Shows Use of Torture As "Ineffective"
    UN Report Says Climate Change Will Threaten Food Production Worldwide
    The Hypocrisy of US Calling for Enforcement of International Law
    How the Ecuadorian Economy Grew in a Global Recession
    'Shadows of Liberty' Trailer
    Kristina Borjesson on Why CBS Shut Down Her investigation into Flight 800 (2/8)
    Glen Ford on Racism in the American Media (3/8)
    Paul Jay on What Drives Corporate Media and What Drive The Real News (4/8)
    Creating a New Media Paradigm After Citizens United (5/8)
    Should The Left Engage with the Mainstream Media? (6/8)
    What Is the Financial Backing For The Real News? (7/8)
    Standing up to Character Assassination (8/8)
    Oligarchs, Fascists and the People's Protest in Ukraine
    TRNN Debate: Is Obamacare In the Interest of Workers?
    Too-Big-To-Fail Advantage Remains Intact For Big Banks
    Obama and the Saudi Agenda
    TRNN Replay: Investigating the Saudi Government's 9/11 Connection and the Path to Disilliusionment - Sen. Graham on Reality Asserts Itself pt 1
    The Iraq War's Real Legacy
    Petitions with 100,000+ Signatures Call for Snowden's Passport to be Reinstated
    We Need to Harness People Power - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (4/4)
    BC Pipeline Fight and Quebec Elections - The Canada Panel
    Jonathan Schell - 1943-2014: Board Member of TRNN on Why We Need The Real News
    Teachers on Strike from the UK to Argentina
    Connecticut Poised to Become First State with $10.10 Minimum Wage
    Oil Spill Threatens Wildlife and Local Economy
    DC School Test Scores Up, But Poor Black Kids Are Doing Worse - Andy Shallal on RAI (3/4)
    Obama's Proposal To End NSA Bulk Data Collection Won't Protect Privacy
    How Google, Apple & The Biggest Tech Companies Colluded to Fix Workers' Wages
    An American Should be One that Questions Their Government - Andy Shallal on RAI (2/4)
    What's Driving Putin & Obama's Posturing on Ukraine?
    Hundreds of Students & Faculty Occupy College Campus to Fight Cuts to Public Higher Ed
    Due Process 'Impossible' In Harsh Death Sentencing Of Over 500 Muslim Brotherhood Members
    Has Anglo-American Capitalism Run Out of Steam?
    Being the "Other" in America - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (1/4)
    TRNN Debate: Should Baltimore 'Ban The Box'?
    How Fallujah Became the Iraqi Government's New Battleground
    Why I Decided to Blow the Whistle on the NSA
    NASA Climate Predictions Show Serious Threat To Humanity
    Professor Who Teaches Israel-Palestine Conflict Accuses College of Violating His Academic Freedom
    CIA and NSA Wrongdoing Requires Independent Investigation, Says Former Church Committee Staff
    Are Tuition Breaks Enough To Combat High Student Debt And Low Graduation Rates?
    Industries Across the U.S. Are Stealing Wages From Their Lowest Paid Workers
    Who In Ukraine Will Benefit From An IMF Bailout?
    NSA Recording All International Calls From U.S.
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (2/2)
    BP Gets Green Light to Drill in Gulf, But Has Safety Improved?
    Residents Still Not Drinking Tap Water Two Months After West Virginia Spill (1/2)
    Libya's Descent Into Turmoil Three Years After NATO Intervention
    From Pipelines to Peladeau - Canadian Report
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (1/2)
    Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget Strikes Back Against Austerity
    Libya Three Years Later - Chaos and Partition
    Why Was Gaddafi Overthrown?
    Should Ukraine and West Accept De Facto Crimea Joining Russia? (2/2)
    Tony Benn Saw Socialism as the Culmination of Democratization
    Why Didn't Bush/Cheney Attack Iran and Can Obama Make and Sell a Deal? - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (3/3)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi? (2/2)
    Crimea Referendum: Self Determination or Big Power Manipulation? (1/2)
    Sen. Graham: President Must Side with Openness About CIA and 9/11
    Manufacturing a Narrative for War - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (2/3)
    Protesters Hit the Streets of Brooklyn to Demand $15 Minimum Wage
    Hammer: 'Moral Bankruptcy' Behind Massive GM Recall
    White House Withholds Thousands of Documents from Senate CIA Probe
    I Grew Up Believing in Time Magazine's Version of America - Gareth Porter on RAI (1/3)
    Western European Banks Vulnerable to Ukrainian Sovereign Debt Crisis
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (2/2)
    CIA vs. Senate: Who Is Obama Protecting?
    Will Tipped Workers Get Excluded Again From Minimum Wage Hike?
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (1/2)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi?(1/2)
    TRNN Replay: A Look at Who's Poised to Become No.2 at the Fed
    How Right-Wing Nationalism Rose to Influence in Ukraine (2/2)
    Netanyahu Attacks Boycott As Campaign Enters New Phase
    Moving Towards a Police State - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (7/7)
    Fighting Reagan's Secret, Illegal Wars - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (6/7)
    Puerto Rican Independence Movement and Cuba Further Radicalized Me - Michael Ratner on RAI (5/7)
    The Butcher of Attica - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (4/7)
    MLK and a Radicalizing Moment in American History - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (3/7)

    RealNewsNetwork.com, Real News Network, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of IWT.TV inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and Real News Network.

    All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network.  Click here for more

    Problems with this site? Please let us know

    Linux VPS Hosting by Star Dot Hosting