By David Brodwin, Special to CNN


January 26, 2012

(CNN) — Two years ago, the Supreme Court upended the rules for campaign finance, unleashing a tsunami of unregulated, unrestricted and undisclosed spending that has, in effect, allowed donors to buy elections. The full impact of this decision is just now becoming clear, and it’s bad both for America’s businesses and for our democracy.

By a 5-4 majority, the Supreme Court affirmed that money is essentially speech — a notion first addressed in Buckley v. Valeo in 1976 — and it outlawed nearly all restrictions on independent spending by corporations or other groups, including unions, to influence elections. Such restrictions are unconstitutional violations of free speech, the court said, and are prohibited by the First Amendment.

You might expect business owners to welcome the elimination of these restrictions, but if so, you’re about to be surprised. A recent poll conducted by Lake Research found that 66% of a random sample of 500 small-business owners believe the Citizens United decision was “mostly bad” or “somewhat bad” for small business. Since small businesses create 70% of new jobs in the private sector, according to the Small Business Administration, their view should matter a lot.

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