One Pagers

Citizens United

January 30, 2012 9:23 am ET
Two years after the Citizens United decision, vast sums of secret special interest money are flowing into our elections. Fed up, Americans in states from Montana to California and New York are fighting backNote: today is the official deadline for candidates, campaigns and committees to file their financial reports for 2011.


The American people won't get a fair shot until we have government by and for all of us -- not bought and paid for by corporations.

Connect: It's no wonder Americans are losing faith in our political system.

Define the decision: Citizens United lets big corporations spend unlimited amounts of money -- in secret and without accountability -- so politicians answer to them instead of voters.

Discredit: We've lost our way when corporations are people, money is free speech, and politicians are for sale to the highest bidder.

Illustrate: We've already seen the outcome: big corporations get massive taxpayer handouts, gut safety regulations, and take away the rights of workers -- while sticking American families with the bill.

Bottom line: The American people won't catch a break until we have a government by and for all of us -- not bought and paid for by Wall Street, Big Oil, and corporate lobbyists.


1. "Citizens United was a victory for free speech rights."

  • Citizens Unitedwas a victory for big corporations -- and a defeat for everyone else.
  • By declaring that corporations have the same free speech rights as people, the Court opened the floodgates for corporations to spend as much money as they want in any election -- all in secret.
  • Our democracy was founded on the belief that every voice deserves to be heard. But with Citizens United, the voices of regular people are getting drowned out.

"Corporations are people."                                        

  • Corporations are not people. No one should have to explain this. Corporations do not vote, they do not fight and die for our nation, and they do not have consciences or beliefs.
  • It's bad enough that they spend millions on lobbyists to influence politicians. Corporations should not be able to control our elections, too.
  • The founders of our country certainly did not consider corporations to be people. Corporations aren't even mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. America was founded as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

3. "Labor unions are taking advantage of Citizens United, too."

  • Actually, there's really no comparison -- unions disclose more about their finances and follow stricter transparency rules than the shadowy front groups for corporations.
  • Let's be clear on the difference: unions are made up of working people looking out for working people. When corporations raking in billions in profits can spend unlimited amounts buying our elections, unions don't stand a chance.
  • In fact, when it comes to "soft money" political spending, labor is getting outspent by corporations by almost 20 times more.

"Corporations should be able to participate in our government, too."

  • The American people won't get a fair shot until we have a government by and for all of us -- not bought and paid for by Wall Street, Big Oil, and corporate lobbyists.
  • When corporations can use their massive profits to secretly cut multi-million dollar checks to bankroll politicians, how are regular Americans with small dollar donations supposed to be heard?
  • There was a reason our country restricted corporations from using their money to meddle in politics for more than a century: to prevent corruption and protect our free and fair elections. But Citizens United undid all that.

5. "Liberals oppose Citizens United because the campaign money is going to their opponents."

  • This isn't about party or ideology. It's about too much money spent in political campaigns today. It's about nobody knowing where it comes from or how it's being spent to throw an election.
  • When big corporations can spend unlimited amounts of their billions buying our elections, ordinary Americans lose, no matter where they stand on the issues.
  • Almost all Americans -- including more than half of Republicans -- agree it's time to put reasonable limits on campaign contributions and spending.


  • In modern elections, nine out of 10 congressional races are won by the candidate who raises the most campaign cash.
  • Citizens United eliminated the restrictions on corporations from directly spending unlimited amounts in our elections -- and now they get to do it in secret and without any accountability to the public.
  • The Citizens United ruling is responsible for the rise of "super PACs," which can receive unlimited contributions and make unlimited campaign expenditures for or against a candidate.
  • A new poll shows over 60% of Americans oppose the Citizens United decision, and 80% agree there is too much big money spent on political campaigns and elections today.
  • Two-thirds of small business owners also oppose Citizens United and almost 90% have a negative view of money in politics.
  • If the largest 100 corporations spend just 1% of their profits on electing or defeating politicians, they would still outspend all current political spending by all the political parties and all of the federal political action committees combined.
  • The impactof the Citizens United ruling was immediate and dramatic. In 2010, the first election cycle since the decision --
    • Outside groups backed by corporations spent $300 million on political ads and campaigns - that's more than double the amount of outside spending from in 2008 before the decision -- and half of it came from undisclosed sources.
    • In 60 of the 75 congressional races in which power changed hands, the unaccountable outside groups backed the winners, spending freely and overwhelmingly on negative ads.
    • Political campaign ad spending hit a record $2.3 billion, which is expected to be shattered in the 2012 election cycle.
  • Outside political spending has favored Republican politicians by two and a half times over the past three years.
  • The Koch brothers, with an estimated $50 billion fortune, already bankroll the campaigns of many Republicans in Congress and have vowed to spend over $200 million in the 2012 election cycle.
  • A constitutional amendment is necessary to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United, but Congress could also help rein in the power of corporate money in our politics -- starting by sending the DISCLOSE Act and the Fair Elections Now Act to the President for his signature.

We develop messaging by aggregating, analyzing and distilling polling, tested messaging, and expert recommendations, and monitoring the media to identify what is and isn't working.
See here for some of the experts and organizations we draw on.


Posted in - Campaign Finance - 2012 Elections

Click to see the One-Pagers for selected date


Upcoming messaging opportunities

Click on the google icon to add this calendar to your Google calendar.