by Andrew Bruskin
The following is a follow-up to an original article written in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
According to several New York publications, not much has changed since this decision was handed down. The Campaign Finance Board states, “NYC already bans direct contributions to candidates and employs strong requirements for disclosure in order to preserve transparency and accountability. As it has for more than 20 years, New York City’s public matching funds program provides candidates with public funds that give small donors a voice to counterbalance the impact of special interest spending.” The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) states that this decision “will not have too much affect in Albany” anyway. “It is like the Wild Wild west right now anyway,” notes Blair Horner, the legislative director of the group. He further states that New York does not have restrictions on corporate campaign finance, so this ruling is minimal when it comes to New York’s electoral process. Corporations can spend-spend-spend away, with few McCain-Feingold restrictions.
Evan Johnston of the Examiner completely disagrees with the court’s ruling and with both NYPIRG and the New York Campaign Finance Board. Mr. Johnston says, “the ruling, which was to remove any restrictions a corporation might have otherwise run into in paying for virtually unlimited advertising time to sink a candidate who might propose something like term limits, or campaign finance reform, or any number of a host of public policy options that are remotely hostile to corporate interests. That is what New Yorkers need to be concerned about.”
Should they be concerned?
There is no doubt that this ruling has made it even tougher for political candidates to tackle issues such as campaign finance reform if their financial backing is largely from corporations. This ruling also shows that the judicial process is influenced by corporations when making decisions for the country. This collective decision-making process is known as corporatism and this ‘ism’ is a pervasive force in American society. It affects everything from child rearing to equal pay, and of course, to elections. New York is no different. And what about the public matching funds New York provides? While that is all well and good, a corporation, as Mr. Johnston notes, can still sink a candidate if they wish with their unlimited advertising dollars. It does not seem fair, especially for young candidates who have to rely on corporate funding.
On the other hand, this decision is a cause for concern for many states in this country that have campaign finance restrictions on corporations, I am not convinced this decision will be highly prejudicial to New York candidates. Since New York did not have many restrictions on corporate finance spending before this decision, why will this decision give corporations more power in New York? Because the decision is now transcribed at the national level? This argument is a moot point if there were minimal corporate restrictions in New York to begin with.
If New York was the Wild West before this decision, it is still going to be the Wild West afterwards. For many candidates vying for political office in New York, it looks like the CEO always has been and always will be the Sheriff. Yes, the Supreme Court decision is troubling, but will it have a big impact on New York?
Andrew Bruskin is a third-year student at William & Mary Law School.