A little more than two years ago, on January 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court made a precedent-breaking, and hence precedent-setting, decision. In a five-to-four vote on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the court ruled that corporations and unions have the same rights to freedom of speech as are granted to U.S. citizens under the Bill of Rights.
The court expanded on previous rulings that said that spending money to deliver a political message counts as speech. It held, for the first time, that corporations have the right to spend unlimited corporate funds to support or oppose a candidate for elected office. Hence governments can’t set limits on campaign spending without violating individuals’, corporations’, or unions’ freedom of speech.
With the 2012 election season underway, the consequences of the Citizens United decision are becoming clearer by the day. Some wealthy individuals and corporations are already spending huge amounts of money on political messaging.
Because the court did not overturn limits on contributions directly to candidates’ campaigns, the unlimited spending has to be done through separate organizations—typically “political action committees” or PACs. “Super PACs” (“super” because of their unlimited flow of money) have already spent about $28.5 million in the Republican presidential primaries as reported by The Boston Globe.  90% of this spending is coming from “probably fewer than 100 people,” estimates David Donnelly, national campaign director at the Public Action Campaign Fund, a group advocating for limits on campaign spending.
The court’s ruling only addressed independent expenditures and not contributions directly to candidates’ campaigns. Regular PACs (as opposed to the Super PACs) can donate to candidates’ campaigns but are governed by laws limiting the size of their contributions to candidates and on who and how much can be contributed to the PAC.
Moreover, the amount spent to date is a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars that these Super PACs have stated they will raise and spend during the entire 2012 election period as reported by The Washington Post. 
One example of the impact of the Citizens United decision comes in the form of a $5 million contribution from Las Vegas casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson, to the pro-Gingrich Super PAC “Winning Our Future.” Political commentators infer that this single contribution alone may have saved Gingrich’s campaign, by fueling his win in South Carolina. Adelson’s wife then gave the same pro-Gingrich Super PAC another $5 million in anticipation of the Florida primary on January 31. In South Carolina, Super PACs actually spent more than the candidates’ official campaigns.
Even before Citizens United, growing amounts of money were being spent on political campaigns, much of it contributed by wealthy individuals. As the Sunlight Foundation calculates from reports to the Federal Election Commission, Wall Street’s so-called “big donors,” each of whom gave more than $10,000, make up the most lucrative category of individual donors. Their contributions of $178 million in the 2010 elections and $328 million in the 2008 presidential election cycle are triple those of the next most generous sector, lawyers. Wall Street contributions are roughly ten times what they were twenty years ago. 
The unleashing of corporate funds has dramatically expanded possible spending and, therefore, the concerns that elected officials will be more responsive to contributors and their money than to constituents. The Open Secrets project at the Center for Responsive Politics calculated that even before Citizens United roughly 72% ($3.4 billion) of all campaign contributions in 2007–2010 came from the business sector (individuals and organizations), with labor contributing 4% ($172 million), ideological groups 7% ($308 million), and others 17%.  Now we can expect even greater business sector dominance.
A large number of groups, including the Occupy movement, constitute a loose coalition working to overturn Citizens United. On the second anniversary of the court’s ruling last month, protest rallies took place at 138 federal courthouses, including in Boston. These rallies were spearheaded by MovetoAmend.org, “a coalition supported by hundreds of organizations and tens of thousands of individuals dedicated to ending the illegitimate legal doctrines that prevent the American people from governing ourselves. … We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.”
Moreover, a number of initiatives are underway to limit large campaign contributions and their undue influence. Partial public financing of campaigns is in effect in states from Maine to Arizona. In such systems, small individual contributions are matched by public funds, and total spending is capped. As reported by YES! Magazine, in Montana, the state supreme court upheld the state’s 1912 law limiting corporate spending in campaigns, despite a lower court ruling that Citizens United had invalidated the law in question. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals similarly upheld a New York City law that places limits on political contributions. 
Hundreds of communities across the United States, including Los Angeles and New York City, have passed resolutions asking Congress for an amendment to overturn Citizens United. A number of state legislatures are considering resolutions as well. In Massachusetts, such a resolution has been filed for consideration in the Legislature with 13 legislators as co-sponsors. Senate Bill 772, “Free Speech for People,” calls for “Congress to pass and send to the sates for ratification a constitutional amendment to restore the first amendment and fair elections to the people.” There will be a public hearing on the bill on Tuesday, February 28, at 1:00, with a rally at the Statehouse beforehand.
Citizen activists all across the country have concluded that unlimited campaign spending by corporations and wealthy individuals mean that our elections are not a fair fight. Democracy’s foundation, “We the people,” is undermined by the influence of money on elections and government decision-making. If, as Citizens United asserts, money equals speech, then those with more money have louder voices and those with no money have no voice. This flies in the face of the principles of our democracy and the Constitution that our founders wrote.
 Mooney, B.C., 1/20/12, “Super PACs and their cash are political game-changers,” The Boston Globe
 Eggen, D., and Farnum, T.W., 1/31/12, “Super PACs helping Republican candidates close in on Obama,” The Washington Post
 Drutman, L., 1/26/12, “On FIRE: How the finance, insurance, and real estate sector drove the growth of the political 1% of the 1%,”, http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2012/01/26/on-fire-how-the-finance-insurance-and-real-estate-sector-drove-the-growth-of-the-political-one-percent-of-the-one-percent/
 Center for Responsive Politics, retrieved 1/29/12, “Business-Labor-Ideology split in PAC and individual donations to candidates and parties,” http://www.opensecrets.org/bigpicture/blio.php?cycle=2008
 Jarvis, B., 1/6/12, “How cities and states are sticking it to Citizens United,” YES! Magazine