Don’t you just hate it when this happens? A conservative firebrand congressman or senator comes along. They get elected, they say and do all the right things, and they’re a constant thorn in the sides of their political enemies and the media. Then one day, from out of nowhere, they completely step in it and ruin everything.
We really like Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO). We do! But Hawley is suddenly—for no apparent reason—spearheading a piece of legislation whose biggest champions are Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Hawley wants to legislate the Citizens United Supreme Court decision out of existence.
Even Hawley himself admits that the Citizens United vs. FEC case from 2010 “predates me.” That’s true. Hawley is only 43 years old, and he’s only been in the US Senate since 2019. He’s not old enough to remember or understand the hellscape of American presidential campaigns for conservatives over the last 40 years or so prior to Citizens United.
“My goal is to get corporate money out of our politics,” says Hawley. “I am an originalist, and I don’t think you can make an originalist case for business corporations being treated like individuals when it comes to the right to political speech.”
Maybe not. But we live in a world where Democrats are willing to cheat in elections using every possible means because they care more about power than they do about the rule of law, our American traditions, the Constitution, or even their own mothers.
What Citizens United did, and which many of these younger whippersnappers who showed up five minutes ago don’t realize, is that the conservative 5-4 Supreme Court ruling finally balanced a major imbalance that had been in place that favored the Democrats for decades.
The huge difference between Republicans and Democrats in federal elections has always been that the labor unions are allowed to donate unlimited amounts of money to a candidate. That’s why the Democrat running for president always raised a billion dollars and the Republican frontrunner would be lucky to pull in $400 million.
The Democrat Party and the labor unions are basically one hive-minded entity. The unions wash unprecedented amounts of cash—often from foreign sources—and can donate as much as they possibly want to a candidate. Can you name a single major public or private labor union that supports Republicans? I can’t even think of one.
Prior to the Citizens United case, this lopsided advantage was controlled by Democrats for decades. In 2008, Barack Obama took in hundreds of millions of dollars from the labor unions. Meanwhile, John McCain and Sarah Palin’s campaign was stuck with no comparable fundraising mechanism.
What Citizens United did was create a new class of political action committee—the Super PAC—that was suddenly allowed to raise unlimited campaign donations. This finally created parity for Republicans with the Democrats. Sure, the Democrats still owned the labor unions. But Republicans could finally compete with them in terms of contributions!
If you don’t have money, you’re not going to win the presidency. Right or wrong, that is simply true. Starting in 2028, our next Republican nominee is unlikely to be a billionaire who can carry himself into the White House by not needing contributions. If Josh Hawley succeeds in abolishing Citizens United, he will have unraveled the only thing that finally gave us a fair playing field with the labor unions’ massive amounts of cash to the Democrats.
Barack Obama was so mad at the Supreme Court over the Citizens United decision that he stood up there at the State of the Union address in 2011 and waved his little finger in their faces. He lectured them about how the court had suddenly allowed “corporate money” to flood into politics. “Not true,” Justice Samuel Alito famously mouthed at Obama.
We can understand why Josh Hawley wants to get corporate money out of politics, but he’s going about this the wrong way. He’s pushing legislation that will take a major fundraising tool away from Republicans, while ignoring the massive flood of dark money from labor unions that flows into the Democrat Party’s campaign coffers. If Hawley wants to get rid of so-called corporate money in politics, that’s fine—but tie it to the labor unions and get rid of it all at the same time.
Don’t screw this up, Senator Hawley!