Two recent articles exposing the dark money behind the political campaign opposing Sen. Susan Collins implied that this is a uniquely corrupt situation. Since the Citizens United decision in 2010, it takes an obscene amount of money to run a political campaign. The legal battle that resulted in this 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court was orchestrated and funded by anti-regulation billionaires who wanted to balance their small numbers with huge political contributions.

Citizens United overturned the Tillman Act of 1907.  By banning corporate contributions to federal candidates and political committees, the Tillman Act was designed to prevent the robber barons from buying politicians.

In Citizens United, however, the court ruled that corporations had the same First Amendment right as individuals. As long as their contributions were made to outside groups, it was, for some incomprehensible reason, considered less corrupting than direct contributions would be.

These nonprofit outside groups, political action committees or PACs, needn’t disclose their donors’ identities.  A lower court decision shortly after Citizens United, the SpeechNow case, removed spending limits, so large corporations got their access to “free” speech, however much it cost. (I refer anyone wanting further information to Jane Mayer’s “Darky Money,” an absolute must-read for anyone wishing to understand the corruption of the democratic process.)

So, if we want our elected officials to be free to spend their time legislating rather than fund-raising, we need to do as Henry Loughlin suggests in his column on Aug. 19 and support the 28th Amendment, overturn Citizens United, return to limited campaign spending, and require the disclosure of major political donors. Until that happens no one should complain about either party playing on a level, albeit sleazy, playing field.


Melanie Lanctot


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