Citizens United is Now the Right’s Go-To Excuse for Labor Bashing

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Here in the great state of California, corporate interests have been trying for years to pass a “paycheck protection” initiative that would prohibit unions from making payroll deductions for political purposes. They’ve failed every time, not because my fellow citizens are deliriously in love with public sector unions, but just because of the manifest unfairness of these things. Even people who aren’t crazy about unions have a hard time swallowing an initiative that deliberately cuts off labor at the knees but does nothing to stop corporate spending.

But they never stop trying, and their latest effort is Proposition 32, which is on the ballot this November. The LA┬áTimes reports that it’s way behind, mostly likely due to a brilliant ad that’s been running around the clock on local stations in these parts. You can read the whole piece if you’re interested, but I was especially charmed by this bit at the very end:

Although the measure would block the direct flow of money from corporations and unions to candidates, experts said businesses would be free to spend unlimited amounts on independent committees to boost or challenge candidates and ballot measures. Labor would be free to do likewise, but its fundraising mechanism would have been cut off.

“You can’t keep big money out of politics,” said Gary Jacobson, a political scientist at UC San Diego. “But you can make it harder for your opponent to raise money.”

The initiative’s backers acknowledge the measure’s limitations, saying they went as far as existing law allows. The U.S. Supreme Court ended limits on political spending through independent organizations in 2010. The court ruled such contributions to be free speech, protected by the Constitution.

“Anybody who wants to get serious about campaign finance reform runs right into all of the cases under the 1st Amendment,” said Michael Capaldi, a Republican attorney who helped draft Proposition 32.

Isn’t that great? Corporate interests are now using Citizens United as their go-to excuse for why they have no choice but to be unfair. We’d really like to end corporate spending, honest we would. But the Supreme Court won’t let us. It’s sad. But at least we can go halfway and end union spending, and half a loaf is better than none, right? We’re doing the best we can here, folks.

You could refloat the Titanic with the crocodile tears on display here. I can’t help but admire their chutzpah.

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If you're new to Mother Jones or aren't yet sold on supporting our nonprofit reporting, please take a moment to read Monika Bauerlein's post about our priorities after these chaotic several years, and why this relatively quiet moment is also an urgent one for our democracy and Mother Jones’ bottom line—and if you find it compelling, please join us.

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