Buyer Beware (Of Citizens United)

The adage, “buyer beware” has never been as true as it is today…

If you have followed the Republican Primaries at all, chances are you have probably heard something about the Citizens United Movement.  Though the movement has received a great deal of publicity in association with the Occupy Wall Street Movement and the primaries, many may not understand where the movement originated.  Citizens United ultimately boils down to an incident of controversy over corporate personhood.

In 2008, the non-profit group Citizens United attempted to run advertisements for a slanderous campaign documentary about Hilary Clinton entitled Hilary: The Movie.  The District of Columbia District Court ruled that the commercial violated the McCain-Feingold Act (AKA the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act) because the documentary was seen as a direct attempt to try to discredit Clinton and sideline her Democratic Presidential candidate bid.

However, in June of 2009, the Supreme Court issued an order to reargue the case on the grounds that the previous Supreme Court cases (Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission) which were used to reach the District of Columbia Court decision may need to be overturned to reach a proper judgment.

In the Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, both Supreme Court cases used to reach the original verdict were overruled in a 5-4 vote under the argument that the cases violated corporation’s and union’s first amendment rights.  Not only did this validate Citizens United attempt to derail Hilary Clinton’s campaign but it also lifted almost all corporate campaign finance restrictions. 

Here’s what the decision did: corporations are permitted to give unlimited funds to any official running for a public office; additionally, the receiving campaign no longer needs to disclose their donation amount or the donator.  Basically, corporations were granted the same campaign donation rights as an individual.

This brings us back to the beginning; under the Supreme Court ruling, corporations may use corporate shareholder money or profit from sales to fund campaigns.  Consumer dollars may be directly funding a candidate’s campaign for office; the candidate may be someone the consumer supports, or they may be someone they oppose, but the consumer has no way of knowing.  The onus falls on the consumer to make conscientious purchases from companies with like-minded political leanings to avoid inadvertently supporting a candidate the consumer sees as unfit.

Even though the contributions from a single purchase are minuscule, they add up over time; and even though a company may opt not to make any campaign contributions at all, it is best to assume that they will.

As consumers, we have a plethora of choices, but the ramifications of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission are so monumental that citizens are essentially voting every time they buy a product or service.  Consumers have more responsibility than ever, and we must make a concerted effort to stay informed.  We must know which corporations are making an honest attempt at protecting the environment because those companies will support the candidates with an environmentally minded agenda.  Additionally, consumers must boycott any company, and their subsidiaries, who knowingly aids in the destruction of the environment.  Buyer beware.

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