Democracy for Sale

Tuesday saw the Republican presidential primary Michigan come down to the wire, with the final push to the finish line determining the undisputed winners, which were…the funders of Mitt Romney’s SuperPAC, which was easily the top spender in the state, and other high-powered donors (some of them unknown). Most of that spending, of course, was on negative ads.

Just as with Florida (which saw the worst of it) and other competitive primary states before, the people of Michigan are now cleaning off from a heavy dose of slime– one enabled by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and paid for by super-rich CEOs and, increasingly, corporations themselves.

This spending and slime, of course has nothing to do with backers’ substantial congressional lobbying expenditures, a connection that led our own campaign-finance guru Craig Holman to observe that “Citizens United has elevated lobbying entities to kingmaker status.” (Oh, and as for the cottage industry that has sprung up denying that the Citizens United ruling has anything to do with this mess—see useful correctives from the Sunlight Foundationand from election-law scholar Rick Hasen.)

Now that Iowa, South Carolina and other early primary states are done, it’s onward to next week’s “Super Tuesday” primaries in states like Georgia and beyond, with casino magnate

Sheldon Adelson making another “substantial donation” to the pro-Newt-Gingrich “Winning Our Future” Super PAC and those bankrolling other candidates following suit. Super PACs are also playing agrowing role in congressional races, so as depressing as it is to note, this upcoming Tuesday is really only the beginning of a long election season.

In fact, you just might as well call this coming series of primaries “Super PAC Tuesday” given the dominant role they’ve come to play. So that’s what we’re going to do, using social media to amplify and harness Americans’ disgust with the auctioning and debasement of our democracy.

Starting today and up through Tuesday, Public Citizen, our Democracy is for People campaign (Twitter:@RuleByUs), and allied organizations, elected officials and citizen activists will be tweeting about ongoing money-in-politics news with the hashtag #SuperPACTuesday.

And beyond Tuesday, we’ll be using the hash #Democracy4Sale to spread the word about the devastating effects of unlimited, unregulated corporate campaign spending, as well as ongoing efforts for fundamental reforms—including important interim steps like the DISCLOSE Act and shareholder transparency, as well as the growing movement for a constitutional amendment that overturnsCitizens United and related decisions.

Efforts to highlight and combat political spending are picking up steam. Last week, strong pro-disclosure remarks by Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) Commissioner Luis Aguilar channeled the public’s common sense and frustration. And on #SuperPACTuesday, which is also Town Meeting Day in Vermont, citizens in fifty towns across that state will be standing up to declare that “Democracy is NOT for Sale” by passing resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United. (And here at Public Citizen, we’re gearing up to dramatically build on that support, and on previous movement successes in over 30 cities like New York and Los Angeles.)

As campaign season heats up, and the eyes of more and more people are focused on the money-fueled circus that our elections are becoming, social media will be a key outlet for exposing excessive corporate influence to one another and building up solutions. Americans across the political spectrum are fundamentally appalled at what Citizens United has wrought. It’s time to build that private distaste into the kind of public outcry capable of reclaiming our democracy.