Demonstrators rallied at the Boston courthouse in protest of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Writing Contest Finalist
We’re delighted to announce the winners of The Nation’s eighth annual Student Writing Contest. This year we asked students to answer this question in 800 words: It’s clear that the political system in the US isn’t working for many. If you had to pick one root cause underlying our broken politics, what would it be and why? We received close to 700 submissions from high school and college students in forty-two states. We chose one college and one high school winner and ten finalists total. The winners are Jim Nichols (no relation to The Nation’s John Nichols), an undergraduate at Georgia State University; and Julia Di, a senior at Richard Montgomery High School in Darnestown, Maryland, and Bryn Grunwald, a recent graduate of the Peak to Peak Charter in Boulder, Colorado, who were co-winners in the high school category. The three winners receive cash awards of $1,000 and the finalists $200 each. All receive Nation subscriptions. Read all the winning essays here. —The Editor
For decades, corporations have wreaked havoc on our democracy from impoverishing the working class, profiting off military conflicts, poisoning the environment and food supply and taking over public schools. Perhaps, their most destructive target is America’s broken political system. Corporations have played a role in elections since the early part of the twentieth century. It was during the presidency of Ronald Reagan that we saw an increase in their hegemony in politics. But it wasn’t until the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, which gave corporations the same free speech rights as individuals, that the corporate sector comprehensively put its stamp of influence on America’s elections.
Shortly after the decision, Super PACs were created and a tsunami of money poured into subsequent election cycles. While donors can’t contribute directly to candidates, they are permitted to bankroll unlimited sums of cash to these federally registered political action committees, which can then endorse specific candidates. By law, no one can force Super PACs to disclose the names of donors, thus creating a trail of dark money. It’s a win-win for the rich who can write million-dollar fat checks without any public scrutiny.
Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig found that just 196 Americans gave more than 80 percent of the individual Super PAC money in the 2012 presidential election. In the entire 2012 election, “ten times what was spent a generation ago, even allowing for inflation,” a cringe-worthy $10 billion was burned through, according to Nation writer John Nichols’s new book, Dollarocracy.