Benjamin, Aaronson, Edinger & Patanzo, P.A.

Citizens Unite Against Citizens United

If you listened or watched the Democratic debate in mid-October and contrasted it with the two Republican debates that had already been held, an independent observer would have had to have come to the conclusion that the Republican debates were much more entertaining and the Democratic debate was much more substantive.

     If you listened closely enough to the Democratic debate, you heard the various
candidates talking about overturning of Citizens United.  Without going into a long detail of the intricacies of that opinion, the essence of the Citizens United opinion by the Supreme
Court of the United States, was that corporations and labor unions are people and that people politically speak by the way they donate money.  Therefore, putting a limit on the amount that a person, corporation or union can donate to a political campaign by way of a super PAC or PAC would violate their rights to freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment and be unconstitutional.

     What that has done in essence, has allowed at last estimate 160 families in the United
States to donate millions to tens of millions of dollars to various candidates and thereby
hopefully control those candidates when they are in office.  In fact, it is often spoken now
that a candidates needs his or her own billionaire to finance their campaign.  Of course,
Donald Trump is his own billionaire and he does not need his own patron saint. 

     We detest the Citizens United decision, not on First Amendment grounds but on its
possibility of perverting the electoral system, which is the heart of our Democratic process.  In this election cycle, Citizens United has yet to rear its ugly head to the extent anticipated. Of course, Jeb Bush started with over a hundred million dollars in donations.  Various families have donated tens of millions of dollars to their choice candidate, but a unique and maybe once in a lifetime phenomenon has occurred.  This phenomenon goes by the name of
Donald Trump.

     For all of his wealth, and he himself estimates it at 10 billion dollars, he has had to use very little of it in order to run rough shod over the rest of the Republican field.  Rather, there is not a day that goes by in which we are not treated to more press coverage of Donald Trump than all the other Republican candidates combined.  A testament to his outlandish statements and his bravado.  If he was not a billionaire and of T.V. fame, he would not be followed in the same way, but he has still caused all the money that Citizens United allows to be donated to candidates to be of little import in the face of his ever presence on the television screen. 

     On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders, without a patron saint to donate large sums
of money and who abhors those patron saints, has managed through his grass roots efforts
to give Hillary Clinton a run for her money, or should we say, other people's money, that she never expected.  She also, of the over 100 million dollars in donations, has had to watch the free publicity that Bernie Sanders gets on nightly news because of the crowds that he attracts and because of the anomaly that is Bernie Sanders.

     What is the conclusion that can be drawn from what we are viewing and experiencing
on a daily basis?  Nothing can change the fact that Citizens United is a terrible decision that has the potential of allowing candidates to be bought by the wealthy, be subservient to the wealthy and to actually ruin the Democratic process, which is the fundamental backbone of this country.  Yet, we also must conclude that at least up until the time of the writing of this article, that Citizens United has failed to have the impact that is feared.  Certainly it has allowed lesser candidates, those of the 1 or 2 percent or even asterisks by their names in the polling, to still be around and pop up on the stage filled with other candidates.  Certainly it has made those candidates and others beholding to the wealthy.  But will they succeed?

     Lastly, we must conclude that this might just be our country's last chance to save its
Democracy.  It is not surprising to those who have read our column that we traditionally vote Democratic, as it is our belief that a Democratic President is more likely to appoint a
Supreme Court Justice or Justices that will help preserve Freedom of Speech and the other
freedoms we hold so dear.  In this situation we believe that this might be just the most
imperative time for us as a country to elect a Democratic President.  One that has promised
to do whatever is possible to overturn Citizens United.  One that will appoint Justices to the Supreme Court who do not view money as speech but rather cherish the sanctity of the
majority as speakers.  For all the reasons why someone may vote for a Republican or a
Democratic candidate for President, we implore any of you that read this article who want
their vote to count, to make sure that the candidate that they vote for is one that looks at the Citizens United case as a stain on our democracy.
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