Citizens United: What the Supreme Court's decision on campaign money means for you
Thursday's Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case will mean more political ads and, possibly, more moderates in Congress.
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What does the court's decision mean for you? 1) More political ads and 2) possibly, more moderates in Congress.
Voters may want to scream about No. 1 and cheer No. 2. The last thing most Americans want is more political advertising, when they're already barraged by campaign messages the last two weeks of any important election.
But look at political contributions as an investor would. Who are corporations (or unions or any other special interest, for that matter) going to back: mavericks or mainstream candidates?
They'll back the mainstream, because those candidates have the best chance of winning.
That may sound counterintuitive. Campaign-finance reform was supposed to curb the influence of big interests in defense of the little guy. But somehow, big business and other special interests still seem to have Congress's ear. The bigger impact of Thursday's ruling may be to help moderate candidates at the expense of more partisan ones.
The logic goes this way: When contributions are limited, big money can't flow as easily to the middle. Partisans on either side have a better chance to compete. Now that the Supreme Court has acted, look for more money to move to the middle.
This represents a blow to partisan activists. On the Republican side, corporations will naturally favor the big business side of the party at the expense of social conservatives. On the Democratic side, the move may be more muted: business-friendly and labor-friendly and environment-friendly candidates will probably get the nod.
This may lessen partisanship on Capitol Hill. Think Mike Mansfield or Howard Baker, senators of an earlier era who crossed the aisle when they believed in the cause. But it's also less representative.
Fewer of them means fewer voices to challenge the status quo – not just of business but of how all of Washington works.