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Center for Regulatory Effectiveness

Greenpeace International
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Center for Auto Safety
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U.S. Public Interest Research Groups


The Manchurian Electorate
The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision which allows NGOs, unions and businesses to fund campaign ads has caused much angst for many watchdogs while pleasing others. Some civil liberties organizations, such as the ACLU, support the decision. Among other NGOs and countless bloggers, however, the decision has led to an outpouring of xenophobic and anti-corporate sentiment.

Objectors to the decision are concerned that once American citizens are exposed to the new campaign ads, they will blindly do the bidding of various malevolent interests in the voting booth. For example, the Center for Public Integrity asked whether the decision would let "Hugo Chavez and King Abdullah buy U.S. elections?"

Similarly, one Senator stated, that the "decision...could empower the deep-pocketed regimes in the Persian Gulf or the Chinese government to wield unprecedented sway in U.S. politics." The remarks serve as a stern rebuke to anyone who thought that American fear of Chinese brainwashing plots went out with the 1950s.

What if, hypothetically, the Mexican government placed election ads encouraging voters to consider candidates' views on immigration reform? Would that really undermine American democracy?

If a business group puts an ad on television stating that a candidate's position on taxes or trade or health card helps or hurts the economy, are the viewers rendered unfit to vote?

Some NGOs apparently think the answer is yes. Public Citizen for example has started an online petition calling for amending the Constitution to overturn the decision.

John F. Kennedy said that "We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people."

Thanks to the Supreme Court, the open market for ideas is now far more open.

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