Happy Birthday, Citizens United! San Diego Has a Present for You

by Carla Miller

January 21, 2010 was a watershed day in U.S. political history—it was the day the Supreme Court decided Citizens United. For four years we have witnessed and studied the effects of the Court's blessing of unlimited independent campaign expenditures by corporations.

 

On January 21, 2014, exactly four years later, the Justice Department announced a major indictment in the Southern District of California that illustrates how Citizens United has filtered down to shape and potentially corrupt local elections.

Is the timing of this indictment a coincidence? I think not. Kudos to the prosecutors for their subtle message.

The indictment alleges a conspiracy to channel $500,000 in illegal foreign funds into the 2012 local elections in San Diego, California. Shell companies were created, SuperPACs were funded and money flowed into the Mayoral, District Attorney, and congressional campaigns in the Wild West atmosphere of Citizens. Those charged include a local lobbyist and a former police detective who were working with the Washington, D.C. based "Campaign Guru"—Ravneet Singh. Also named as a defendant was Mr. Singh's company, the Election Mall. This company touts a focus on technology solutions for campaigns, including a "Cloud Campaign," the "ultimate technology solution for campaigns of all sizes and budgets." The indictment paints a picture of how "ultimate technology" and a "Mall" approach to elections marries with the loose campaign spending restrictions of Citizens to influence local elections. An appropriate birthday gift.

In the Citizens United opinion, the Supreme Court famously stated that "this Court now concludes that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption." After the events of this week, the citizens of San Diego most likely disagree with the Court.


Photo attribution, PageResource.com