Today the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission which overturned a hundred years of campaign finance laws, including part of the McCain FeingoldAct. Corporations and Unions can now spend money directly on the support of candidates. According to Michael Waldman of the Washington Post:
This far-reaching ruling augurs a significant power struggle. For the first time since 1937, an increasingly conservative federal judiciary faces a progressive and activist Congress and president. Until now, it was unclear how the justices would accommodate the new political alignment. The Citizens United decision suggests an assertive court, eager to overturn precedent, looming as a challenge to President Obama’s agenda.
The Atlantic explains the decision:
Justice Kennedy, in the majority opinion, reasoned that the government can’t discriminate against speakers based on their corporate identities, and that “all speakers, including individuals and the media, use money amassed from the economic marketplace to fund their speech, and the First Amendment protects the resulting speech.”
This basically eliminates a middleman: before today, corporations and unions had to set up PACs (political action committees), filed separately with the IRS, that would receive donations. And they did. Corporations and unions spend millions of dollars on elections. Now, however, the accounting firewall is gone, and Wal-Mart or the Service Employees International Union, for instance, can spend their corporate/union money directly on candidates.