Date: May 3rd, 2012 6:02 PM
Citizens United eliminated the final extant prohibition on independent corporate political speech. The case has thereby taken on the perceived sins of the whole line of decisions expanding corporate rights in the political marketplace. More specifically, Citizens United has provoked such a strong reaction because it stands for a series of opinions that, together, allow the potential for independent corporate speech to overwhelm a democratic system built to serve individual voters.
Careful parsing of this reaction reveals that it has several components, seldom articulated. For example, limited forays into campaign advocacy--a billboard or two, say--by small incorporated nonprofit organizations or local for-profit businesses do not provoke the same degree of concern that the demos is endangered. These concerns, therefore, do not seem to be predicated on the corporate form as such. Rather, most of the fear provoked by Citizens United seems to be driven by the anticipated actions of entities with exceptional concentrated wealth.35 Attention is focused on corporations, because the corporate form allows for-profit corporations to amass such wealth at an unsurpassed scale.
Understanding that the furor over Citizens United concerns the political leverage of extreme wealth, rather than the corporate form as such, usefully narrows the field of responsive policy to address that concern. Parsing further, to understand the reasons why citizens may be worried about the deployment of extreme wealth in the political marketplace,36 yields a still narrower field of policy responses. This Essay turns now to the particular fears that may be at the *224 heart of the reaction to Citizens United--and once articulated, finds several tailored responses to these fears well within the regulatory space undisturbed by the decision itself.