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Citizens United in Florida

In 2014 the United States Court came down with the historic Citizens United Ruling allowing unlimited financial contributions for candidates. The rationale for the ruling seems to be consistent with a value of our country--not restricting access of citizens to their government. The initial thought is we are talking about ensuring access to meet and communicate with our representatives for their effective representation of our interests.

But, when you take the rationale to the next test and substitute financial contributions for the type of communication, you then raise other fundamental questions. Does ensuring access mean that is even at favor of the rich over the poor? The problem becomes even more exaggerated when we factor the massive wealth concentrated among some individuals, corporations, and ventures in the world. Then factor in the cost and capabilities of sophisticated communication technology. With today's market research capability, we can detect a citizen's voter registration, interests, purchases, internet viewing, financial wealth, voting patterns, and general demographics. With the growing concerns about terrorists, it is entirely possible that more personal information is going to become available for the government...and then we have the leaks. Perhaps the only thing we cannot buy now in an election is who is actually going to vote? But with mega budgets, we can identify probable voters and attempt to influence their decision to vote--and maybe even help with logistics.

To look at the results of unlimited campaign financing in Florida, I offer a comparison, starting with the first Governor with whom I served in the Legislature, Reubin Askew, a lawyer of modest means. By all accounts, he was one of our state's greatest chief executives, with outstanding lawmaking experience as a member of the Florida Senate and House of Representatives. Askew limited campaign contributions.

Today, we have Rick Scott, a hospital administrator with massive wealth, who had never served in any public office. My personal opinion is that he is one of the worst chief executives to have served in any state. By his own admission, Scott personally bought both of his elections.

It is time to re-visit the Citizens United decision. I understand the need to protect and not chill access to our government. But, I don't think we should favor a class of Americans at the expense of another, with the access solution. This may be the one issue in which we have consensus in our country today--it is time to address the quality of our government before it deteriorates further.


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