The traditionally liberal push to stifle corporate political donations has gained one of the United States Senate’s most conservative voices in a turn of events that portends a bipartisan effort to overturn more than a decade of precedent under the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision.
On Tuesday Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) pledged to introduce a bill overturning the Citizens United ruling, which has been widely characterized by President Joe Biden and Democrats as “opening the floodgates” for corporate spending during campaign season. The ruling under Chief Justice John Roberts, whom Hawley clerked for at the time, has reshaped the landscape for political causes at every level of government and preceded an era of super PACs that are a staple in modern-day elections.
Writing on X, Sen. Hawley had a simple message for his followers.
“Why should the massive corporations get to influence our elections and drown out voters? Corporations are not people. My bill would bar publicly traded corporations from making political donations,” he wrote.
Why should the massive corporations get to influence our elections and drown out voters? Corporations are not people. My bill would bar publicly traded corporations from making political donations https://t.co/NSPZRD9Xgv
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) October 31, 2023
During his 2020 campaign, President Biden pledged to work with Congress to pass a law forbidding corporate donations to political candidates, a promise that has so far remained unfulfilled. Progressive allies like U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have carried the torch for years, but Sen. Hawley’s latest move signifies an adjacent effort from conservatives to prevent so-called “woke” corporations – and increasingly left-wing billionaires – from adding their voices to America’s discourse.
Speaking with Real Clear Politics, Sen. Hawley cast his constitutional beliefs in the Founding Father’s original views on free speech.
Albeit for very different reasons. “I am an originalist,” he said in a Monday interview, “and I don’t think you can make an originalist case for business corporations being treated like individuals when it comes to the right to political speech.”
The Hawley legislation would ban publicly traded corporations from making independent expenditures and giving to Super PACs while prohibiting them from cutting political ads or engaging in “other electioneering communications.
During a rally this summer, Sen. Hawley cited the increasingly progressive lurch of boardrooms across the country as a reason to disenfranchise corporations seeking to “buy elections,” as Sanders famously puts it.
“Let’s get one thing straight: Corporations are not people. I’ve got news for these woke corporations: We are not going to surrender this nation to the cultural Marxists in the C-suite,” Hawley said during the social conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition summit.
A number of corporations, from Bud Light to Target, have stoked the ire of conservatives who accuse them of prioritizing efforts around diversity and inclusion over basic customer service. Other corporations such as Coca-Cola and Disney have spoken out about state-level efforts against abortion and transgender accommodations, further inflaming the growing dissension in conservative spheres.