America has awakened. All across the nation, a burgeoning movement has begun to demand the overturn of Citizens United v. FEC and related cases via constitutional amendment, including, according to a new report by Free Speech for People, 130 Republican officials at the state and federal levels.
The new report released in June, titled "Across the Aisle: The Growing Trans-partisan Opposition to Citizens United", compiles quotes from these officials to form a comprehensive body of evidence in support of the fact that, indeed, getting corporations out of political campaigns – at least at the state level – is not a partisan issue. In fact, Republican support has been instrumental in the passage of fifteen state-level resolutions calling for the overturn of Citizens United, with a Republican primary sponsor even leading the charge in Illinois. As Verner Bertelsen, former Secretary of State of Montana, put it,
... the bad Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court and more recent decisions ... threaten to undo Montana's century-old laws against political corruption ... I am a lifelong Republican and I served as Montana secretary of state from 1988 to 1989... Corporations aren’t people and money isn’t speech. CEOs of corporations may choose to personally contribute to political campaigns, but they shouldn’t be allowed to use shareholders’ money to do so.
These views, too, are hardly new – as Theodore Roosevelt declared in 1910,
It is necessary that laws should be passed to prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes; it is still more necessary that such laws should be thoroughly enforced. Corporate expenditures for political purposes, and especially such expenditures by public service corporations, have supplied one of the principal sources of corruption in our political affairs ... The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint ... has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power. If our political institutions were perfect, they would absolutely prevent the political domination of money in any part of our affairs. We need ... a corrupt-services act effective to prevent the advantage of the man willing recklessly and unscrupulously to spend money over his more honest competitor.
With recent polling cited in the report showing robust support for amending the Constitution -- 83% of Americans, including 81% of Republicans -- it's quite clear that, with continued education and mobilization, Citizens United's days are numbered.
25K call on President Obama to use State of the Union to endorse amendment movement
Today, a petition on the White House website urging President Obama to “use the State of the Union to call for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics” exceeded the 25,000 signatures necessary to guarantee an official White House response. The petition, launched by the groups Free Speech For People, Avaaz, People For the American Way, and Demos on January 8 took less than two weeks to cross the threshold.
The petition can be found here: http://wh.gov/P9j7
Fixing our campaign finance system has long been a cause President Obama supports, though he failed to make progress on it during his first term. During his re-election campaign, President Obama told supporters that: "Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United . . . . Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change."
The petition calls on the President to reiterate and strengthen this call in the State of the Union, and comes just days after President Obama delivered an inaugural address that many believe reflected a renewed willingness on his part to fight for core goals he has long supported even in the face of challenges.
"Americans everywhere are asking President Obama to take the lead on the one issue that unlocks all the others: getting big money out of our political system, to restore our government of, by, and for the people," said Peter Schurman, Campaign Director at Free Speech For People. "'We the people' means all the people, not just the wealthy few, and not the corporations."
Ian Bassin, Campaign Director at Avaaz, said: "We the people have spoken and the message is clear: We're sick of oil industry money setting our energy agenda, the Wall Street dollar determining our economic policy, and gun company cash dictating how we protect our kids. We need elections not auctions and we're counting on President Obama to lead us there, starting with his State of the Union."
The petition may also be the last White House petition to garner a response after receiving 25,000 signatures. It also may be the most serious of the latest round. Last week, after responding to petitions to deport Piers Morgan and to build a Death Star, the White House upped the threshold for guaranteeing a response to 100,000. But petitions like this campaign finance one that were launched before the change were grandfathered at the 25,000 threshold.
“This petition provides more evidence for what we already know – that Americans want a solution to the corrupting influence of big money in our democracy,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “We saw massive amounts of money pour into last year’s elections, much of which was undisclosed. Using the megaphone provided to them by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, corporate special interests are drowning out the voices of ordinary voters. President Obama calling for a constitutional remedy in the upcoming State of the Union Address would draw attention to this critical situation and mobilize even more Americans into action.”
"This is the moment President Obama should take a strong and decisive step toward ending big money's stranglehold on our politics and our economy, and cement his legacy by leading the effort to finally forge a democracy in which the strength of a citizen's voice does not depend upon the size of her wallet," said Demos Counsel Adam Lioz.
After the coalition involved in launching this petition posted it to the White House website, its growth came from citizens expressing their frustration with the flood of money infecting our political system. Much of this public frustration stems from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC that corporations have a constitutional right to spend unlimited sums to influence elections. In the wake of that decision, more than $6 billion was spent in the 2012 elections, much of it by corporations and anonymous billionaires. Congress responded by proposing amendments to reverse that decision and eleven states and nearly 500 cities and towns have joined this call.
This petition tees up for President Obama the key question of what he’ll do next to deliver on a core, unfulfilled promise of his first campaign: to change the way Washington works. The groups behind the petition will continue to campaign until he does.
PFAW joined members of Congress, state and local officials, advocacy organizations and concerned citizens for a Capitol Hill summit to amplify the call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that helped usher in unprecedented levels of corporate spending to influence our elections.
The speakers recounted the toll that Citizens United has taken on our democracy, as their colleagues must contend with the outsized influence that wealthy special interests hold over the political system, and how it is absolutely imperative for Congress to have the authority to regulate campaign contributions and require disclosure. While there are many approaches under consideration, it was clear to all that amending the Constitution is a necessary step to restore our democracy. So far, 13 constitutional amendments have been introduced in the current session.
It’s a long road to ratification, but there is a rapidly growing grassroots movement taking hold across the country to get this done. State Representatives and City Councilmen took to the podium to share their constituents’ enthusiasm for a constitutional amendment, and many states and cities across the country have already adopted resolutions calling for such an amendment.
The summit concluded with a call for public officials to sign the Declaration for Democracy, a simple statement of support for amending the Constitution “to protect the integrity of our elections and limit the corrosive influence of money in our democratic process.”
Here is a video and photos of the event.
PFAW’s Marge Baker opens the Summit as members of Congress, local and state officials and activists look on. “We the people means all the people, not just the powerful and privileged.”
PFAW’s Diallo Brooks introduces several local government officials as Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) signs the Declaration for Democracy.
Maryland State Senator and PFAW Senior Fellow Jamie Raskin describes the Supreme Court’s flawed logic in the Citizens United decision. Quoting Justice White: “The state need not let its own creature [corporations] devour it.”
Rep. Keith Ellison watches as PFAW’s Marge Baker signs the Declaration.
The Declaration for Democracy: “I declare my support for amending the Constitution of the United States to restore the rights of the American people, undermined by Citizens United and related cases, to protect the integrity of our elections and limit the corrosive influence of money in our democratic process.”
FOR PLANNING PURPOSES
House and Senate Members to Host Activists and Advocacy Groups for Congressional Summit on Amending the Constitution
Washington, DC – On Wednesday, April 18, a number of United States Senate and House members will host People For the American Way (PFAW) and other advocacy organizations alongside local and state government representatives and citizen activists for a summit to explore the need for constitutional remedies to overturn Citizens United. As sponsors of proposed constitutional amendments, the Senators and Representatives are highlighting the growing grassroots movement to restore our democracy and amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and restore government by the people.
Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Tom Udall (D-NM) will join Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL), Donna F. Edwards (D-MD), Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Jim McGovern (D-MA) for the discussion. Other speakers include People For the American Way’s Executive Vice President Marge Baker and Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin.
WHAT : Congressional Summit to Overturn Citizens United
Senator Bernie Sanders People For the American Way
Senator Charles E. Schumer Public Citizen
Senator Tom Udall Center for Media and Democracy
Representative Ted Deutch Common Cause
Representative Keith Ellison Communication Workers of America
Representative Donna F. Edwards Move to Amend
Representative Jim McGovern American Sustainable Business Council
Free Speech for People
WHEN : Wednesday, April 18, 2012
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
WHERE : Capitol Visitors Center, HVC 215
RSVP : Please click here to RSVP.