Large for-profit organizations could always establish political action committees (PACs) to raise money for incumbents from their officers and shareholders. Many unions have large memberships, so corporate and union PACs could expressly advocate to millions of voters.
Justice Kennedy's majority opinion in Citizens United addresses the fact that the burdens of establishing PACs, including the potential criminal penalties for noncompliance, have worked against small businesses and voluntary associations of citizens.
Citizens United will undoubtedly benefit unions. The impact for large corporations, which remain accountable to customers and shareholders, is overstated by many. Nevertheless, unions and corporations will now also be competing against thousands of smaller, independent associations amplifying the voices of millions of $100, $25, and $5 contributors, and even non-contributors who express adherence to these causes through signing petitions and completing surveys.
Citizens who do not have vested interests in those large corporations and unions, which are often in bed with Washington, will hear from many more sources without the restraints in place before Citizens United was decided. These citizens may choose to join with other like-minded citizens, and their voices will be amplified in ways not attainable when individuals act alone.
No longer do the large, corporate-owned newspapers such as The New York Times have a government-created exemption to endorse candidates in the press. General Electric owns NBC; GE and Microsoft own MS-NBC. These government contractors will have less of a monopoly over what's said about their incumbent benefactors in Congress and the White House.
Citizens United is not a First Amendment panacea, since it keeps in place complicated and burdensome reporting requirements even for independent expenditures.
Proportionately, however, the favorable impact for voluntarily associations, where citizens may pool their resources through nonprofits or other independent associations, will be even greater than the benefits to large unions and corporations. Because these new associations will be independent of corporate and union interests and independent of the big-government, sycophantic bias of newspapers, they will be less afraid of criticizing incumbents and actually presenting their side.
These new nonprofit associations will be motivated by a variety of interests, such as faith in and allegiance to the Constitution and markets free from corporate-government collaboration -- or even government intimidation of corporations.
Their support will be obtained voluntarily. They are unfettered by the desire to have special access to incumbents. They do not have a symbiotic,vested interest in big government, as the corporate-owned media do.
As Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his dissenting opinion, which upheld the burdensome disclosure requirements for independent expenditures, many businesspeople are often subjected to the "threat of retaliation from elected officials" and therefore do not contribute to incumbents' challengers. They are intimidated by, and beholden to, those incumbents.
Independent citizens, who see the problems caused by a corrupt, coerced corporatist system, are now free to pool resources to say, "Throw thatpolitician out of office." That is far bolder than whatever any special interest beholden to Washington and entrenched power would ever dare say. Citizens United, therefore, will help those who are not tied to Washington.
This is why the corporate-owned media and many politicians have been criticizing the Citizens United decision. Those who criticize the Citizens United decision say that it opens the door to more money from big special interests.
Well, yes, the number of people who oppose corrupt, unconstitutional government is big, and getting bigger by the day. And, yes, they are special.