An aspect where both the majority and minority opinions in Citizens United v. FEC 558 U.S. 310 (2010) united was on the value of section 203 of Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, 2002 to democracy. The majority sustained the disclosure norm in section 203 about political contribution, though restriction on political funding was taken down citing first amendment.
In the wake of yesterday’s Florida School shooting, the President of United States addressed the nation, carefully avoiding the word gun being mentioned even once. The Guardian reports that seven weeks into 2018 there has been already eight shootings in US Schools. Too many too soon to ignore about the issue of guns but only to focus on the mental health of the alleged shooter, especially since shooter is a white American which leaves out other possible narratives. Incidentally one of the first Bills this President signed was to ease conditions for procuring guns by people with mental illness.
This raises two questions, why should a President do something like enabling mentally ill persons to legally possess guns and what prevents the President from calling the spade what it is. To develop the question further, why does the congress consistently failing to legislate on guns within permissible limits, which any sensible legislature would do? Why are the State legislatures relatively silent on the issue?
Answer to all questions is writ large on the power gun lobby wields in US politics, through electoral funding. The dynamics of lobbying is such that the National Rifle Association and allied actors can sway representatives through contributions.
Citizens United facilitated flow of funds to political parties aiding purchase of policies and laws but did not obliterate the trail of money. Justice Stevens in his dissent had mentioned that ‘a democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.’ in US at the least there still exist a posibility to link the actions of politicians to their donors as there is disclosure of fund flow.
India has recently introduced a new form of election funding through ‘electoral bonds.’ These bonds of specified values are issued by designated Banks, which can be bought and presented to preferred political party/ies. The political party need to declare the receipt of encashment of bonds in its Income Tax returns.
The electoral bonds will keep public completely out of loop and will not reveal who contributed to whom. 'We the people' will have no idea who has bought and sold the law and policies governing ‘us,’ the most dispensable commodity in Indian democray. Government through bank and IT returns will have clear idea who has contributed to whom helping them to profile contributors to rival political parties. Politcal parties will know their benefactors and therefore whose interst to cater. Paradox is that Mr. Arun Jaitly tout this as a step towards transparancy in political funding.
In US, when they are hit by a bullet at least they know who paid for it.