In its excellent investigative report on the role of corporate donations in reelecting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, The Guardian has raised important questions about the ability of political donors to shape election outcomes. A flood of private money into state elections started long before Citizens United; but that decision did nothing to help stem the tidal wave that is now submerging our political system.
As part of an ongoing research project, my colleagues and I have parsed the data correlating political donations and results in U.S. elections and discovered that the impact of money in shaping electoral outcomes has been even more decisive than we had originally anticipated.
We haven’t seen all the documents in the case, but the Guardian’s revelations raise searching questions both about the actual facts of the Wisconsin episode and the foolishness of the claims by some Supreme Court justices that money that streams around rather than into campaign coffers is somehow radically different from the rest of political money. The emails revealed by the Guardian deserve not only judicial review, but the widest publicity. They show very clearly how a small bloc of billionaires can choke off anything resembling a democratic process in America’s money-driven political system.