Who Broke Our Democracy?

The history of money in politics is a treacherous one, discover the past and future of this controversial subject.

| January 2018

According to When Money Talks (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2016) special-interest money is destroying our democratic process. But now that the Citizens United decision has thrown out campaign spending limits as abridgments of free speech, Americans want to know what they can do about it. Derek Cressman gives us the tools, both intellectual and tactical, to fight back. Cressman examines how courts have foiled attempts to limit campaign spending, details what a constitutional amendment limiting paid speech should say, and reveals an overlooked political tool concerned citizens can use to help gain the amendment’s passage. Seven times before in our history we have approved constitutional amendments to overturn wrongheaded rulings by the Supreme Court—there’s no reason we can’t do it again.

How Courts Have Struck Down Limits on Money in Politics

The concept that government may restrict the speech of some elements of our society in order to enhance the relative voice of others is wholly foreign to the first amendment.

—US Supreme Court, Buckley v. Valeo, 1976

If money is speech, as the Supreme Court says, then more money must be more persuasive speech, and those ideas with the most money behind them will tend to prevail. This is un-American.

—US Senator Barbara Boxer

When Senator James Buckley lost a political battle on the floor of the Senate in 1974, he didn’t get mad. He got even.

Sam Clemens
2/7/2018 3:21:12 AM

If free speech is money, then it was never free and now it never will be. This has become the late 20th century and early 21st century version of Dred v Scott. An absolute moral failure of American jurisprudence. It is a tradegy overshadowed only by the loss of all legal rights due to the infliction of binding arbitration in private courts with out appeal to the legal system. This is not even separate but equal, it is strictly destruction of all legal rights of the less powerful by the very powerful.