The US Supreme Court’s striking down of nearly a century’s worth of campaign finance laws means the US government can now be “bought” and the country may be headed for fascism, says an outgoing Democratic House representative.
In an interview this week, Rep. John Hall (D-NY), who lost his seat in the mid-term elections, told the New York Observer that he sees a threat to American democracy in the court’s ruling.
“I learned when I was in social studies class in school that corporate ownership or corporate control of government is called fascism. So that’s really the question — is that the destination if this court decision goes unchecked?”
The Citizens United decision upended decades of campaign finance regulation, allowing corporations, unions and other groups to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns without having to identify themselves. In a decision split along ideological lines, the court ruled that restrictions on spending amounted to a violation of First Amendment rights. Others have challenged the notion that corporations and other organizations have the “personhood” needed to be granted constitutional rights.
Hall was a key player in efforts to mitigate the effects of the Citizens United decision. He backed the DISCLOSE Act, which would have required groups to identify themselves when campaigning. Hall added provisions to the bill limiting the ability of foreign corporations to spend money on US elections. But, after passing the House, the bill was defeated by filibuster in the Senate.
“The country was bought,” Hall told the Observer, arguing that the Citizens United decision was one of the reasons Democrats lost control of the House.
The influx of unregulated cash into election campaigns has been linked to an increase in misinformation in campaign ads. CBS reported in October:
Outside groups, which are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to influence elections this year (largely on behalf of Republicans), are most likely to stretch or ignore the truth on their advertising. These groups, which have exploded in size and influence in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, are often funded by donors whose identities are not revealed to the public.
Hall said that Bush appointees Samuel Alito and John Roberts “claimed in their confirmation hearings before the Senate that they would not be activist judges [but] made a very activist decision in that it overturned more than a century of precedent. And as a result there were millions of extra dollars thrown into this race.”
He described Alito and Roberts as “extremists.”
Hall also suggested that the health care reform package may have contributed to the Democrats’ electoral losses. He said he and other Democrats were warned during the debate that it could cost them their House seats.
“I don’t think that is the only reason why I lost but if it is I am OK with it,” he said.