Hillary Clinton Agrees with the Citizens United Decision

Eric Zuesse

On April 14th, Glenn Greenwald, a brilliant U.S. Constitutional lawyer, documented that Hillary Clinton actually agrees with the Citizens United decision by the five Republican members of the U.S. Supreme Court, even though she routinely says she doesn’t.

Here is how he opened (my emphasis is in bold):

FOR YEARS, THE Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Citizens United was depicted by Democrats as the root of all political evil. But now, the core argument embraced by the Court’s conservatives to justify their ruling has taken center stage in the Democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — because Clinton supporters, to defend the huge amount of corporate cash on which their candidate is relying, frequently invoke that very same reasoning.

The crux of the Citizens United ruling was that a legal ban on independent corporate campaign expenditures constituted a limit on political speech without sufficient justification, and thus violated the First Amendment’s free speech guarantee. A primary argument of the Obama Justice Department and Democrats generally in order to uphold that campaign finance law was that corporate expenditures are so corrupting of the political process that limits are justified even if they infringe free speech. In rejecting that view, this was the key argument of Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the five-judge conservative majority (emphasis added):

“For the reasons explained above, we now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

Does that sound familiar? It should. That key argument of the right-wing justices in Citizens United has now become the key argument of the Clinton campaign and its media supporters to justify her personal and political receipt of millions upon millions of dollars in corporate money: “Expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption” — at least when the candidate in question is Hillary Clinton.

Indeed, the Clinton argument actually goes well beyond the Court’s conservatives: In Citizens United, the right-wing justices merely denied the corrupting effect of independent expenditures (i.e., ones not coordinated with the campaign). But Clinton supporters in 2016 are denying the corrupting effect of direct campaign donations by large banks and corporations and, even worse, huge speaking fees paid to an individual politician shortly before and after that person holds massive political power. …

What his article failed to document is that Hillary Clinton herself has given this same argument, which was the majority-opinion in that court case she routinely condemns. So: here are some of her statements, seconding those that Anthony Kennedy wrote for all five Republican jurists in Citizens United:

In the Democratic debate on 14 November 2015, Bernie Sanders challenged Hillary Clinton, “People should be suspect of candidates who receive large sums of money from Wall Street and then go out and say, ‘Trust me, I’m going to really regulate Wall Street’.” Moderator John Dickerson followed up by asking her directly: “So you’ve received millions of dollars in contributions and speaking fees from Wall Street companies. How do you convince voters that you’re gonna level the playing field when you’re indebted to some of its biggest players?”

Her reply was: “Well, I — I think it’s pretty clear that they know that I will. You’ve got two billionaire hedge fund managers who’ve started a super PAC. And they’re advertising against me in Iowa as we speak. So they clearly think I’m going to do what I say I will do. [She ignored whether they were Republicans, or Democrats, which is key here.] And you can look at what I did in the senate. I did introduce legislation to reign in compensation. … And I am going right at them. [How? She didn’t say.] I’ve got a comprehensive, tough plan [about which she said nothing]. But I went further than that. We have to go after what’s called the shadow banking industry, those hedge funds [though they had nothing to do with the 2008 crash].” 

She was against Sanders’s statement that the megabanks are already too large and must be required to sell off parts in order to meet new maximum-size requirements, and against his statement that the Glass-Steagall Act separation of commercial banking (which has government-backing) from investment banking (stocks and other forms of Wall Street gambling, which under Glass-Steagall had had no federal backing at all). And she said that voters should trust her honesty, that the huge campaign and personal payments to her and her campaign from the megabanks have no connection to her opposition to those proposals from Sanders, the megabank-regulations proposed by him.

She was saying the same that Anthony Kennedy’s Citizens United ruling had said: that people should just trust the honesty of politicians and their financial backers.

Then, in the Democratic debate on 4 February 2016, she responded to Sanders’s attack against her megabank-backing, by saying:

CLINTON: … You know, Senator Sanders has said he wants to run a positive campaign. I’ve tried to keep my disagreements over issues, as it should be.

But time and time again, by innuendo, by insinuation, there is this attack that he is putting forth, which really comes down to — you know, anybody who ever took donations or speaking fees from any interest group has to be bought.

And I just absolutely reject that, Senator. And I really don’t think these kinds of attacks by insinuation are worthy of you. And enough is enough. If you’ve got something to say, say it directly.

But you will not find that I ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation that I ever received. …

So I think it’s time to end the very artful smear that you and your campaign have been carrying out…

But, she constantly says that Citizens United must be overturned (even though it’s correct in her particular case).

And, actually, she did “change a view or a vote” to please her megabank-backers. She switched from opposing a draconian bankruptcy-reform bill to supporting it, after her political career had begun drawing in millions from Wall Street. The milktoast Bernie Sanders refuses to cite that specific against her, but it’s true — she’s lying. On 9 February 2016, the Huffington Post’s terrific political reporter Zach Carter not only documented that it’s true, but he headlined “Democrats Are Fuming About Hillary Clinton’s ‘Smear’ Line” because they recognized that she was implicitly defending there the Citizens United decision by saying it was true in her particular case — even though her actions proved the exact opposite (that she had done the corrupt thing and switched her vote in order to please her financial backers). She’s a poster-case for the lie that was Anthony Kennedy’s argument in the Citizens United decision. And she lies to say that she’s not.

However, Greenwald himself is similarly hypocritical. Just as Hillary is using ‘freedom of speech’ (in the Citizens United argument for allowing political corruption) insincerely; so, too, does Greenwald, when he censors-out from his news-site anything that the site’s owner, Pierre Omidyar, doesn’t want the site’s readers to know, such as that the change of government that occurred in Ukraine in February 2014 was a U.S. coup, not a ‘democratic revolution’ against corruption. Though there were public demonstrations at Ukraine’s Maidan Square against corruption, they were organized by the CIA, inside the U.S. Embassy) to serve as cover for the gunmen the CIA hired to perpetrate the overthrow. The head of Stratfor called it “the most blatant coup in history” and it was very bloody, with U.S.-hired snipers dressed as state-security forces, in order to appear to be President Yanukovych’s people. It was run by Obama’s agent, Victoria Nuland. Pierre Omidyar was one of the U.S. billionaires who financed it. When his other employee, the great investigative journalist Mark Ames, wrote about that on another of Omidyar’s sites, pando, on 28 February 2014, immediately after the coup, he became virtually sidelined there, mainly onto Silicon Valley topics, as if he were no longer permitted such a freedom (to go against his boss). There was one minor follow-up by Ames, about his boss’s involvement with USAID in controlling the post-coup Ukrainian government, but Ames has been little more consequential as a journalist under Omidyar than Greenwald has been, and neither of them has been allowed, or allowed submitters onto his respective site, to provide any ongoing news about the efforts by the Obama Administration — with the help of corrupting U.S. oligarchs such as Pierre Omidyar and George Soros — to transform Ukraine into a base for U.S. nuclear missiles against Russia, nor even about the Obama operation to overthrow another Moscow-friendly ruler, Bashar al-Assad, who has been the sole block against the takeover of Syria by U.S.-Saudi-backed foreign jihadists. The total journalistic product of Omidyar’s operation has been minuscule against the core goals of the U.S. aristocracy (or “oligarchs”) — which includes themselves (and which is why those sites are censored about it). And Greenwald’s compliance with Omidyar has been total: no contributions at all regarding the U.S. operation to take over Russia by overthrowing Russia-allied leaders of other nations have been allowed onto his site, “the Intercept.” He might as well be a CIA plant, like a mole or an FBI agent, someone who works undercover for the aristocracy.

But he’s an excellent lawyer, and here are some of Hillary Clinton’s lying statements pretending to be an opponent of, and to disagree with, the Citizens United decision:

And let’s remember, Citizens United, one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in our country’s history, was actually a case about a right-wing attack on me and my campaign. A right-wing organization took aim at me and ended up damaging our entire democracy. So, yes, you’re not going to find anybody more committed to aggressive campaign finance reform than me.

Regarding that one, Mark Joseph Stern at slate, listed the three valid reasons for condemning the Citizens United decision, and then contrasted them with her reason; he brilliantly observed: “Instead of relying on these rationales, Clinton concocted a fourth: Citizens United was bad because it let a corporation attack my candidacy.” Only suckers could vote for a candidate such as that. But there are plenty of them: as Stern noted about the audience’s response to her having said this: “The line received a huge applause.”

On her campaign site, she promises she will (she doesn’t say how) “Overturn Citizens United.” Yet more sucker-bait.

She issued an op-ed at CNN, on 21 January 2016, headlined, “Hillary Clinton: The cure for Citizens United is more democracy.” It opened:

Six years ago Thursday, the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United transformed our politics by allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.

The effect was immediate. In the 2010 midterms, outside groups spent nearly 60% more than in 2006. In 2014, the top 100 donors spent nearly as much as all 4.75 million small donors combined. National networks of big-money donors funneled mountains of cash into targeted state races. By 2014, one party controlled both the governor’s mansion and the state legislature in 36 states — the most since the 1950s.

Restricting voting rights

Meanwhile, Republicans launched an aggressive campaign to restrict voting rights across the country.

As if that “aggressive campaign” were even relevant to the Citizens United decision? In the rest of her 700-word essay, she said virtually nothing more about that Supreme Court decision — a decision which enables and empowers her own corruption, as well as that of all other corrupt politicians. The only additional reference she made to it in her essay was: “Citizens United and its aftermath have twisted and perverted our democratic system.” She’s seeking suckers’ votes.

And: as Greenwald said, she’s the very model of the type of politician that the five Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court were trying to empower. The suckers whose votes she gets are fooled merely by her labeling herself a ‘Democrat’ and slinging the type of bumper-sticker phrases that draw Democratic suckers instead of Republican ones.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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  • artguerrilla

    1. not particularly interested in arguing how many demons can dance on the tip of a bayonet…
    2. what eludes me, is THE central moral conundrum, of just HOW THE FUCK a korporation is not only a ‘person’, but an INFINITELY ‘superior’ person compared to ALL the real people combined…
    how/why is it NO ONE will mention that elephant in the living room ? ? ?
    (ok, i know why: because it would be heretical to question -to ANY small degree- the legitimacy and primacy of rapacious kapitalist imperialism…)
    3. paranthetically, greenwald supported the CU decision as some sort of ultimate free speech test; while i excoriate it for accepting that korporations = constitutionally defined ‘person’ with all the rights thereof…
    4. BUT -and this is a huge, cellulite-ridden, pimple-covered, hairy butt- HOW can it logically be -nevermind any principle of equity- that a korporation can have such rights, when it is a fictitious legal charade, when it has no ‘person’ who either originates, embodies, or represents ‘the korporation’s’ speech, when korporations would then be INSTANTLY and INFINITELY more powerful than the totality of the citizenry -voters and ineligible citizens alike- in kontrolling The System ? ? ?
    no, that is an OBSCENE perversion of the principle of personhood, the central tenets of the constitution, and any vestige of common sense to permit korporations to masquerade as people…
    korporations are in the saddle, and the devil take the hindmost…

    • wunsacon

      The 1st amendment simply forbids restrictions on speech, absent some strong justification. The majority didn’t “decide” that “corporations are people” — but that’s how many people distort it.

  • April 16, 2016 Ten Reasons Why Bill and Hillary Clinton Do Not Deserve a Third Term in the White House By Prof Rodrigue Tremblay

    “Few things are more dangerous than empires pushing their own interest in the belief they are doing humanity a favor.” -Eric Hobsbawm (1917-2012) British historian, June 10, 2003


  • cahuenga

    That Greenwald paragraph was the strangest non-sequitur tangent I think I have ever seen. I had to read it twice just to see if I had missed a segue from the Citizen’s United story. Nope, just weirdness.

  • Carole Jean

    Probably, the Clintons are the most corrupt politicians since the Robber Barrons in the late 19th Century.

  • Well done, Eric. As a layman journalist, I also quote and share articles and tweets from Glenn Greenwald, noting that most of his comments are of Libertarian bent, like his boss. I believe Matt Taibbi referenced the dysfunction within the Intercept after he left the organization. His stay was brief, mainly due to the undemocratic processes established by Pierre. For truth seekers, I’m sure the knowledge of Pierre’s involvement in financing the coup in Ukriane was a bit much to digest.

    What I do find interesting is Glenn’s friend, Edward Snowden, has been giving a home and protection in Russia, who eventually moved into Ukraine and condemened the coup. Meanwhile, the lapdog journalists in America painted Russia as the aggressors.

    One note, you obviously had expectations that democrats (liberals) were all highly educated and voted only after thinking for themselves. WRONG.

    I know so-called “progressives” who think MSNBC is left wing media. It’s owned by the Oligarchs, so all the news is censored as pro-capitalism, pro-plutocracy. There are also millions of democratic voters who vote as the party instructs. A large percent of them have received favors from the party bosses. Millions are members of the remaining unions. Millions receive free giveaways in the form of welfare. If they want these favors to continue, they’ll vote D, because the party bosses keep track.

    Both political parties are part of the establishment ruled over by oligarchs, or the American Aristocracy. They use both sides of the political aisle to divide and conquer and move forward their objectives. The party leaders are followers – look at Reince Preibus and Debbie Shultz – they are the two biggest weasels I’ve ever seen.

    The Midwest was literally gutted overnight and turned into the Rust Belt as a result of Bill Clinton’s, NAFTA, yet Hillary won most of the Midwest. Ignorance.

    The Southern blacks voted for Hillary even though she and Bill are responsible for the mass incarceration of blacks due to longer jail time for drug offenses and their cozy relationship with private prisons. Ignorance.

    The main problem in our country is we foolish Americans actually believe we have the one true religion and a free press – two institutions run by the Aristocracy to divide and conquer.