It started exactly ten years ago on Jan. 21, 2010 when the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Citizens United, thereby eliminating restrictions on corporate and PAC donations to political campaigns. By equating corporations with people and money with free speech, Virginia became awash with money in our elections. Electoral contributions in Virginia totaled $121.5 million in 2019, double from 2011, with nearly $25 million coming from outside the state.
This was aggravated by our lax laws in Virginia. Legislators in our state, unique in our nation, are bound by no limits on campaign contributions which they can then use for personal use. Historically this has allowed business and special interest to dictate state pipeline policies, underfund schools, and keep tobacco taxes low and payday interest rates high. Last year, over 10 campaign finance bills were introduced in the last Virginia General Assembly where they died.
So, given the undeniable fact that unregulated money is undermining our democracy and that the Supreme Court decision has, over the last ten years, diminished your voice and mine, marginalized our votes and threatened our democracy, what can be done?
The answer, ironically, to correcting the Citizens United ruling is for citizens to unite – to reclaim our voices, our votes and our democracy by advocating for an amendment to the US Constitution that outlaws outsized political donations from corporations, PACs, and special interests. We also need to oblige our Virginia legislators to pass campaign finance reform.
A steep climb to be sure, but big problems demand big solutions, and as 80% of Americans actually support an amendment that changes how money influences our representatives, we are already more than halfway up that hill.