Democracy or Plutocracy?

In 1976 under the Buckley vs. Valeo case, the Supreme Court ruled that donations to a single campaign could only reach a certain amount. Furthermore, donations above $100 must be reported and explained. To ensure the regulations were followed, the Supreme Court created the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The intention of the resolution was that politicians would not become corrupt by appealing to wealthy donors. However, many questioned the resolution and claimed that it restricted free speech. The argument was that donating money was an expression protected by free speech and therefore should not be limited by the government.

In 2003, limitations were challenged and reinforced in the McConnell vs. Federal Election Commission debate. The final result was that the Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional to regulate contributions made to candidates even in forms such as advertisements and “soft money.” However, the limitations were tested again in 2010 in the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case. In the case, Citizens United attempted to bypass restrictions so they could show their movie on why Hillary Clinton was not fit for Presidency. Due to rules reinforced in the McConnell case, the Supreme Court decided that it was constitutional for the movie about Hillary Clinton to be regulated. However, the court also decided that corporate funding of broadcasts cannot be limited. In this ruling, an important ideology arose; corporations also had the right to the First Amendment’s promise of Free Speech.

After Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, funding from wealthy individuals and corporations increased immensely. Candidates such as Jeb Bush found loopholes that allowed them to raise the money required to win elections [hyperlink to article on Gale that I can’t actually hyperlink to because common readers without MGHS password cannot access article]. Politicians began to appeal mainly to their wealthy donors instead of the common people. Wealth has become even more powerful, and the common people have become even more ignored. According to Adam Lioz in an U.S. News article, “We have folks that are essentially using million-dollar megaphones to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.”

Technically, donations to politicians are protected by the First Amendment as an expression of free speech. Additionally, past court cases have ruled that corporations have free speech. The question becomes is if constitutional for wealthy individuals or companies to donate large amounts of money to politicians if it weakens the voices of the people?  


Works Cited

“5 Years After ‘Citizens United,’ SuperPACs Continue To Grow.” All Things Considered, 13 Jan. 2015. Student Resources in Context, Accessed 14 Feb. 2017.

“Buckley v. Valeo.” Oyez. Chicago Kent– College of Law, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2017. <;.

“Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee.” Oyex. Chicago Kent– College of Law, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2017. <;.
“McConnell v. Federal Election Committee.” Oyez. Chicago Kent– College of Law, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2017. <;.


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