The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United was not entirely unexpected, but it is appropriately seen as a breathtaking change in the way elections work in this country. The Supreme Court struck down federal campaign finance rules that limit corporate (and general organizational) spending on campaign finance ads to help or defeat candidates.
What can we expect now? One need look no further than Texas, which has no campaign restrictions in any statewide races. In Texas, large corporations and individuals have given millions of dollars to candidates and ads supporting them in one election cycle.
While this can be hugely influential on state legislation, at least legislation remains ostensibly open and in the public eye. Texas does have laws that may be seen as more favorable to corporations (such as low limits on medical malpractice compensation and a conservative tax structure), but all in all, the Texas legislative code doesn’t look all that different from other states. That's in part because many laws important to progressives, such as environmental laws, are mandated by the federal-state joint programs such as the Clean Air Act. But this doesn’t mean that unlimited contributions don’t affect the state of the environment.
So what's the hidden danger from Citizens United? The influence on the administrative state. Even with laws on the books, administrative agencies may choose to not act on enforcement or may only impose nominal penalties on violations, and this is what we have ...