Citizens Divided: Campaign Finance Reform, Deliberative Democracy, and Citizens United


  • Aaron Heresco


campaign finance reform, deliberative democracy, corporate money, politics


The January 21, 2010 Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (FEC) fundamentally altered the role of corporations in the U.S political system. Upending over one hundred years of judicial precedent, this 5-4 ruling lifted previously establish limits on both the structure, and time-frame, of corporate speech as it related to political communication. Even more fundamentally, the ruling can be seen as a paradigm-shaping moment regarding the interaction of corporations, citizens, and democracy. Resting on notions of corporate personhood and speech protection under the First Amendment, the Supreme Court's decision will have far-reaching implications in the overlapping spheres of economics and democracy. Specifically, how does a campaign finance system that is increasingly open to corporate influence interact with ideas of deliberative democracy? The influence of corporate money into the democratic system, or the appearance of its influence, can have deleterious effects on civic participation and social trust. Using the work of Joshua Cohen as an intellectual – and organizational – framework, the Citizens United decision will be analyzed in the context of the constitutive elements of deliberative democracy."