Shake your head Justice Altio

In a State of the Union address full of “togetherness” rhetoric, President Obama took the oratorical gloves off to condemn the Supreme Court because it “reversed a century of law that … will open the floodgates for special interests.” While the House chamber — both Democrats and Republicans — erupted in applause behind the seated jurists, Justice Samuel Alito simply shook his head and mouthed “that’s not true.” The president was referring to Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, where the court ruled 5-4 against the United States.The decision struck down provisions of the 2002 McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act, which passed by large majorities in both the House and Senate. The Court found that the provision of that statute that prohibited corporations and unions from using their own funds to pay for “electioneering communication” that advocates the election or defeat of a candidate to be unconstitutional. In simpler words: companies couldn’t buy ad space praising or trashing a political candidate.Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who voted against the original bill, championed the recent decision, saying it “struck a blow for the First Amendment.” While I agree with McConnell that the First Amendment protects some of our most cherished rights, the Court’s decision protects the free speech of wealthy corporations and unions. A direct result of this is that the average citizen’s right to free speech is restricted when his voice can be drowned out by Political Action Committees who buy unlimited amounts of airtime.There are limits on how much money an individual can donate directly to a political candidate — $2,400 per election to a federal candidate — along with limits on donations to political parties. Yet foreign nationals, corporations and unions are forbidden from donating directly to candidates. These limits exist to prevent the economic elite in this country from restricting the free speech of average citizens.One man, one vote. That is the type of democracy that we celebrate as Americans. The primary purpose of our government, and of any government, is to serve the interests of its citizens, not corporations or foreign influences. Thus, individual citizens must have the greatest power to influence our candidates, because they – not corporations, not unions and not foreign nationals – are the ones who determine who will lead our government.