ENDING SUPER PAC CORRUPTION
Our Massachusetts case could finally end the ability of billionaires to weaponize Super PAC in elections
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Across federal elections in 2020, for example, Super PACs spent an astounding $3.4 billion. Nearly 70 percent of this money was provided by just 100 donors. The top 1 percent of donors accounted for approximately 96 percent of Super PAC donations. Just last month, we learned of a single donor making a $1.6 billion (that’s “billion” with a “b”) to a single political action committee!
Super PACs have created a pathological dependency within our democracy. That dependence is inconsistent with the representative democracy.
So long as there are no limits on contributions to Super PACs, our democracy will continue to be unrepresentative.
Equal Citizens is therefore launching a lawsuit in Massachusetts that will seek to regulate Super PACs for the first time. If successful, we will once again be able to reign in the political influence of the ultra-wealthy.
Over the summer, the Equal Citizens team worked with FreeSpeechforPeople.org to develop legislative language that would impose limits on contribution to Super PACs. If enacted, the ultra-wealthy would be unable to funnel unlimited sums into Super PACs.
We then joined with Equal Citizens supporters in Massachusetts to collect enough signatures to get the legislative language in front of the Massachusetts Attorney General, to see if her office would approve the regulations for a statewide ballot initiative. If the office approved the language, we would wage a major grassroots campaign to get it approved by voters and therefore set a new legislative model for limiting Super PAC influence. If the office rejected it, we were prepared to file a lawsuit in an attempt to get the case before the Supreme Court. In either case, we had a pathway to ending Super PACs.
The Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General ultimately refused to certify the initiative. The Office concluded the Initiative would “violate the free speech rights afforded by the state constitution.”
The AG’s decision was not surprising. Her view is reflected in countless decisions reached by lower courts across the country. But the question has not yet been addressed by the Supreme Court. And we are no developing the strategy to give them the opportunity to resolve this question finally.
THE LEGAL ARGUMENT
THE LEGAL ARGUMENT
We believe that even — maybe especially — conservatives should reject the view that the First Amendment requires unregulated Super PACs.
An increasingly important fraction of the United States Supreme Court — the “originalists” — believes it should interpret the Constitution in the way its Framers would have interpreted it.
We believe that we can show that such an approach must reject any constitutional protection for Super PACs.
In Citizens United, the Supreme Court held that corporations (and unions and rich people generally) can spend unlimited amounts of money supporting or opposing a political candidate — just as long as they do it “independently” of the candidate’s campaign.
Based on that decision, a lower court held that if the First Amendment meant you could spend unlimited amounts independently, it must also mean you can give unlimited amounts to an independent political action committee.
That decision created the Super PAC. And that decision — we believe we can show — is not consistent with the Constitution, at least as an originalist would read it.
Our Massachusetts case will start in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. If we prevail there, then we will be in the United States Supreme Court. There we will ask (especially the originalists): What would the Framers have said about Super PACs? And if we can get just two originalists to agree with us that the Framers would have hated Super PACs as much as we do, then with the other three justices who have already indicated they oppose super PACs, we could end super PACs once and for all.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CASE