Independent legal scholar Mutch (Campaigns, Congress and Courts: The Making of Federal Campaign Finance Law, 1988) contends that the Citizens United (2010) Supreme Court ruling has reversed more than 100 years of electoral reform and overthrown long-accepted legal definitions of equality, democracy and free speech.
The author contributes a broad perspective to the heated controversy provoked by the current Supreme Court and its decision that corporations can use their financial power to influence electoral outcomes—putting corporations on par with individual people. Mutch identifies two cycles of election finance reform: the first beginning around the 1904 election of Theodore Roosevelt and the second, with the 1974 resignation of President Richard Nixon. Both, he shows, were driven by outrage over the role of money in politics. In the early 20th century, many feared the corrosive effects of large corporate financial contributions as undermining the notions of equality and democracy. Mutch quotes New Hampshire Sen. William Chandler, one of the founders of the Republican Party and co-sponsor of federal legislation to bring financial transparency to the electoral process: “A republic is supposed to be individual government….But when corporations can furnish money to carry elections from corporate treasuries individualism in government is gone.” Over the decades, the fears have prompted only partially successful legislative efforts. After Nixon, two 1970s cases—Buckley v. Valeo and First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti—established money as a protected equivalent of human speech and permitted direct corporate funding of elections. “[T]racking changes in where campaign funds actually come from,” writes Mutch, “reveals that…today's system differs only in degree from the Gilded Age system the first reformers tried to uproot.”
An excellent discussion of election finance reform for policymakers and political watchers—though the audience may not include many general readers.