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15 WTF moments in Citizens United political spending

On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. FEC that, as far as the First Amendment is concerned, corporations are people. What happened next? A whole bunch of WTF is what.

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15. When Target spent $100,000 to try making a right-wing homophobe Minnesota’s governor

giphy.com / Via citizenvox.org

Retail giant Target was among the first corporations to throw its money into politics after the Citizens United ruling. The company backed the candidate who wanted to abolish corporate taxes -- who also supported amending Minnesota's constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The backlash from consumers and shareholders was (predictably) huge.

14. When California caught Koch-backed Arizona nonprofits meddling in its politics – and fined the meddlers $1,000,000

media.giphy.com / Via latimes.com

Libertarian bazillionaire brothers David and Charles Koch have basically created the world’s largest and most expensive shell game to enable 1 percenters like themselves to secretly funnel money through so-called nonprofits to campaign on political issues. A couple of these -- "Americans for Responsible Leadership" and "the Center to Protect Patient Rights" -- actually got caught violating campaign finance law, and the state of California actually enforced the law.

13. Every time the Federal Election Commission fails to make a decision

media.giphy.com / Via bostonglobe.com

The FEC was stuck in perpetual gridlock before it was cool in Congress. Its six commissioners – three Democrats and three Republicans – have the authority to end secret corporate political spending and crack down on election law violators. But they won’t, because the three Republican commissioners are ideologically opposed to federal election laws, because freedom.

12. Every time President Obama fails to replace FEC commissioners whose terms have expired

media.giphy.com

Four of the FEC’s six commissioners terms are actually expired. Obama could nominate replacements at any time – to break the deadlock, he’ll have to nominate at least one Republican who actually supports the mission of the agency (which, in theory, should not be that hard).

11. That time when health insurance giant Aetna publicly supported Obamacare but secretly funneled $7 million to anti-Obamacare tea party groups

giphy.com / Via money.cnn.com

If corporations are people, can they be hypocrites? Aetna answered that one for us when the health insurance company accidentally made its secret political spending public.

10. When Sen. Mitch McConnell switched his position on disclosure as soon as it seemed politically convenient

media.giphy.com / Via rollcall.com

For most of his career, McConnell dismissed efforts to reform our elections and said all we really need is a system of full disclosure. Then, Citizens United happened. Then, tons of secret corporate money seemed to favor the GOP. Then, McConnell led Senate Republicans in a party-line blockade against legislation that would have actually instituted the system of full disclosure he once embraced.

9. When the political group that got the state of Montana to overturn its anti-corruption laws had to explain why its paperwork was found in a meth house

media.giphy.com / Via pbs.org

Following a Frontline exposé on the seedy activities of “Western Tradition Partnership,” a judge ruled against the group, its executive director quit and left the state, and the group changed its name. Score one for journalism.

8. When a PAC for House Speaker John Boehner got $25,000 from White Castle

giphy.com / Via publicintegrity.org

Little burgers, big money. Sure, $25,000 might seem like a drop in the bucket for 2012 – the year of the multibillion-dollar presidential election – but it can make a big difference in a district (and on the phone, in case a certain burger executive might feel like asking a certain House Speaker for a favor).

7. When Obama invited Corporate America to help pay for his inauguration

media.giphy.com / Via publicintegrity.org

Sure, most attempts to repair the gaping hole in our electoral system are coming from the Democratic Party – but, when it comes to taking corporate money, Washington, D.C.’s liberals aren’t exactly guiltless. Case in point: Corporations that helped pay for Present Obama’s 2012 inauguration included AT&T, ExxonMobil, Comcast, Bank of America, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Chevron and Boeing.

6. Every time a corporation secretly funnels “dark money” into political organization masquerading as a nonprofit charity

giphy.com / Via nytimes.com

Tax-exempt nonprofits aren’t required to disclose their donors – but organizations whose “primary purpose” is political are supposed to disclose. This is the distinction at the heart of last year’s IRS kerfuffle, and it’s why we really don’t know how much corporate money is being spent to tilt elections toward Big Business’ favored candidates.

5. Every time you see a negative political paid for by a dark money group with a name like “Americans for a more American America”

giphy.com / Via citizen.org

Sure, everyone has always hated political ads, and political ads have been skewing negative for as long as pretty much anyone can remember. But after Citizens United? Since the donors behind attack ads can be totally secret, there’s nothing holding them back from being as negative as negative can be. So 2012 was the most negative campaign season ever. There’s no reason to think 2014 won’t be worse, and 2016 probably will be even worse than that.

4. When OFA – the group originally formed to help elect Obama – promised access to the president in exchange for money

giphy.com / Via sunlightfoundation.com

Yeah, for some reason the idea of selling meetings with the president to the highest bidder didn’t go over so well in the hope and change crowd. Who knew? OFA scurried into damage control mode, but not until after alienating supporters and losing a bucket load of credibility.

3. When Chevron didn’t even try to hide its $2.5 million donation to help elect Republicans

media.giphy.com / Via citizenvox.org

While the rest of Corporate America hid behind the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity or Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, Chevron said YOLO and made the biggest corporate political contribution ever recorded. The result: unmistakable public and shareholder outrage.

2. When Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy assumed when writing the majority opinion in Citizens United that corporate spending would be disclosed anyway

media.giphy.com / Via citizen.org

That’s right. The logic of the ruling that opened the Pandora’s box of secret corporate political spending was based in part on the assumption that the spending would be disclosed and shareholders – you know, working people with retirement accounts and investments – would be able to hold corporations accountable.

1. When YOU actually made a difference by writing to the Securities and Exchange Commission

giphy.com / Via pubc.it

As the federal agency that’s in charge of looking out for shareholder interests, the SEC has the authority to bring corporate dark money into the light. Shareholders are any public corporation’s actual owners. It makes ZERO sense for a small business to be giving money to politicians without its owners knowing about it, right? Same idea holds just as true for big companies. Join 650,000 who have already made their voice heard and write to the SEC today.

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