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Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg says the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that corporations could legally now spend freely to support or oppose candidates opened the spigot for millions of dollars flowing into political campaigns, damaging the democratic process.

So far this year, he said, outside groups unshackled by the Supreme Court have spent more than $200 million on this year’s midterm elections.

“I have a great deal of contempt for the majority opinion,” Aronberg said.

Money has always been critical in campaigns, but the controversial Citizens United blew the lid off, he said. “In January 2010 the federal money floodgates opened wide.”

Citizens United allowed corporations and unions to directly spend money to influence voters, often through opaque groups whose financing isn’t clear.

In ruling that expenditures in politics don’t have a corrupting effect because the money doesn’t go directly to politicians, Aronberg said, the court was “mistaken or maybe just naïve.”

With corporate money flowing to influence elections, Aronberg said “the money players get what they want while the voters get lip service.”

He said the majority in the 5-4 Supreme Court opinion was wrong by not paying more heed to the framers of the Constitution, who were “obsessed” with eliminating political corruption.”

Aronberg said Congress and the states could fix the problem by amending the Constitution – something proposed by U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton – but that, realistically, won’t happen. The only real chance to fix the problem, he said, is to change the composition of the Supreme Court, something people need to think about when they vote for president and U.S. Senate.

Aronberg, a Democrat, described himself a “recovering politician.” He’s a former state senator, worked in the state attorney general’s office, ran unsuccessfully for state attorney general in 2010, and currently teaches a class on constitutional law at Palm Beach State College.

Copyright © 2014, Sun Sentinel

 

 

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