Citizens United is not just the default reference for US Supreme Court decisions—including the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling—that have ushered in a new era of corporate dominance of American elections. It’s the name of the conservative group that encouraged Chief Justice John Roberts and the most activist Court majority in American history to tear the heart out of what were already weak campaign finance laws.
Citizens United still exists as an activist group that produces documentaries—ACLU: At War with America, Border War: The Battle Over Illegal Immigration, Fire From the Heartland: The Awakening of the Conservative Woman, America at Risk: Hosted by Newt and Callista Gingrich—and organizes gatherings that highlight right-wing policies and politicians. On Saturday, Citizens United hosted something of a kickoff for the Republican presidential race in the first-primary state of New Hampshire.
Organized in collaboration with the Koch brothers–funded Americans for Prosperity Foundation, Citizens United’s “Freedom Summit” attracted a list of peakers that included leading contenders (and wannabes) for the GOP nod. Indeed, Greg Moore, the director of AFP-New Hampshire, described the summit as the first “cattle call” of 2016.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul made his pitch to the Koch crowd.
So did Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
And former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
And perennial (if never quite announced) contender Donald Trump.
The Freedom Summit was not entertaining objections to the latest Supreme Court decision to steer more big money into politics—in the case of McCutcheon v. FEC—or to the political machinations of bottom-line corporations and self-serving “mega-donors.”
But across town, on the same day, the objection was raised.
The New Hampshire Institute of Politics on the campus of Saint Anselm College was packed Saturday for a town-hall meeting with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who roused the crowd with a condemnation of the money power that is corrupting American elections and governance.
“In the United States of America, billionaires should not be able to buy elections,” declared Sanders, to thunderous applause.
“If we do not get our act together, we are moving towards an oligarchic society,” he continued, arguing that, “We have got to fight to defend American democracy.”
Like some of the Republicans who will be in New Hampshire this weekend, Sanders has talked about running for president. And his visit to the first-primary state has stirred speculation about a possible bid.