Far-right political groups in the United States continue to play insidious games with campaign finance rules that have played an important part in keeping American political races fair and honest.
Among the latest targets of the Trump Administration and Republican hardliners is something called the Johnson Amendment, named for former President Lyndon Johnson who championed the rule while serving in the U.S. Senate.
The Johnson Amendment has been a provision in the U.S. Tax Code since 1954, and has never been controversial until just recently.
Republican U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan targeted in campaign from End Citizens United group. https://t.co/KRJmUihzJQ
— Sam Janesch (@samjanLNP) December 6, 2017
Basically, the Johnson Amendment prohibits all tax-exempt, non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing any political candidate. The rule is mostly designed to keep church and religious organizations out of politics. Under the Johnson Amendment, preachers cannot “preach from the pulpit” in favor of or opposed to any candidate.
The rule has become an integral element supporting the deep American tradition of separation of church and state.
But now many groups – mostly right-wing, conservative Republican forces – want the Johnson Amendment scrapped so that churches across America can get deeply involved in influencing the voting habits of their “flocks.”
A group called End Citizens United (ECU) is aggressively fighting to keep the Johnson Amendment in place. ECU is a political action committee (PAC) formed in 2015 in direct reaction to a 2010 Supreme Court Ruling that came to be known and Citizens United.
The 2010 Supreme Court ruling basically opened the floodgates that allowed massive corporations and private billionaires to donate as much campaign money as they wanted to the candidate of their choice. Furthermore, the new ruling said that no candidate or party had to report just where the money was coming from – in other words, unlimited amounts of “dark money” was made legal.
Under the 2010 Supreme Court ruling, corporations were granted the same status as “people” and money was deemed to be “free speech.” The result of this disastrous decision is that the average American voter has become increasingly disenfranchised from the American political system.
End Citizens United has a primary goal of someday reversing the 2010 Supreme Court ruling by passing a Constitutional Amendment that will nullify its effect. However, ECU is also fighting bad campaign finance actions on many other fronts – one of which is the new attack from political right-wing groups on the Johnson Amendment.
The ECU has also been aggressively fundraising on a grassroots level to support candidates who also oppose the 2010 Supreme Court decision. Those candidates tend to be Democrats.
The ECU is on track to raise $35 million ahead of the 2018 election cycle. It has done so by garnering hundreds of thousands of small donations averaging just $14 from concerned American citizens who are sick and tired of seeing U.S. elections bought and sold by wealthy elites. Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/End_Citizens_United