Some Democratic congressional staffers personally feel a need to respond differently to lobbyists in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, according to a recent survey.
The Citizens United vs. FEC case overturned generations of U.S. campaign law that limited corporate donations and required the identity of donors be disclosed. President Barack Obama and other Democrats have been ardent in criticizing it as permitting limitless corporate influence.
The advocacy group Public Citizen conducted an informal survey [PDF] of 80 Republican and Democratic congressional staff members in which recipients were asked about the effects of the Citizens United ruling.
Fifty-seven percent of Democratic congressional staffers said the decision strengthened the influence of lobbyists in the policy making process. In stark contrast, none of the staff members who worked for Republican members of Congress felt the same way.
Sixteen percent Democratic congressional staffers also said they felt a need to respond differently to lobbyists' requests after Citizens United, but Republican staffers unanimously said that nothing had changed.
"The results of this survey are concerning, although not surprising," said Taylor Lincoln, research director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. "The notion that unlimited outside expenditures would not corrupt the policymaking process was fanciful from the start. This is not a scientific survey, but it shows that outside spending does in fact intimidate congressional staff – and that’s very troubling."
Democrats had attempted to pass a law -- the DISCLOSE Act -- to mitigate the effects of Citizens United, but it was opposed by conservatives and failed to clear Congress thanks to a Republican filibuster.
In April, it was revealed that the White House was preparing an executive order that would implement some of the provisions of the DISCLOSE Act by forcing government contractors to disclose their political spending.
In an interview with the New York Times, lobbyist R. Bruce Josten said the Chamber of Commerce would fight the measure with "all available means."
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