Freedom of Speech

The American People Reject Citizens United. Whose Representatives are Listening?

To: Interested Parties

From: Marge Baker, Executive Vice President, People For the American Way

Date: April 18, 2012

Re: The American People Reject Citizens United. Whose Representatives are Listening?

91 million Americans are represented by one of the 89 members of Congress supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. FEC, according to a new analysis by People For the American Way. To date, a total of 24 U.S. Senators and 65 U.S. Representatives have sponsored or co-sponsored an amendment to the constitution seeking to undo the damage caused by the flawed decision that paved the way for unprecedented levels of corporate and special interest influence in our elections, as tracked by United For the People.

Over 75 million people live in the states represented by pro-amendment senators, according to 2010 census data. In states still awaiting senatorial support, an additional 16 million people live in congressional districts represented by a member of the House who has signed on to a proposed amendment, bringing the total to 91 million. Considered separately, the 65 supporting members of the House represent 42 million Americans.

The Citizens United decision is immensely unpopular among voters, and a majority of Americans support amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United. In fact, a 2010 PFAW poll showed that 85% of voters say corporations have too much influence over the political system, while 93% said that average citizens have too little. More recent polling commissioned by Public Campaign shows that these concerns translate to a full 62 percent across all political parties that oppose Citizens United, with nearly half strongly in opposition. The survey also found that more than three-quarters of voters say that it is important for candidates to make campaign finance reform a key election issue, and two-thirds of voters consider reducing the influence of lobbyists and money in politics to be an important factor in their vote.

The 89 members of Congress who have endorsed one of the 13 federal resolutions to overturn Citizens United introduced thus far during the 112th Congress are acting on this sentiment. These proposed amendments are diverse, reflective of the robust and serious debate Americans are having across the country on what constitutional approach would best solve the problem. In addition, as significant is the groundswell of support at the local and state level that far transcends this total. To name just a few, the City Councils of New York City, NY, Oakland, CA, Los Angeles, CA, Albany, NY, Missoula, MT, and Boulder, CO have all adopted their own resolutions, as have the legislatures of states like Hawaii and New Mexico, and when given the chance to vote directly, the citizens of 64 towns across the state of Vermont have passed ballot measures supporting a constitutional amendment.

The groundswell of support for a constitutional amendment among the American people represents a “movement moment,” and members of Congress who are taking action – on behalf of 91 million constituents so far – are on the right track. A constitutional amendment is a profound but necessary measure to restore the balance of influence in our elections to the American people. The issue of undue corporate and special interests in our democracy is a big problem that requires a big solution. Measures that require more disclosure of the sources of the big money in politics, call for public financing of elections or require greater corporate accountability to shareholders for corporate political spending would all mitigate the problems caused by the Court’s radical decision in Citizens United. But because the Court rested its decision in that case on flawed constitutional grounds, the only way to fully remedy the decision is by amending the Constitution to ensure that Americans’ voices are not overwhelmed by massive corporate and special interest spending in elections.

A broad and diverse group of organizations, under the banner of United For the People, are pressing creative ways for activists and public officials to engage on this issue. Activists are encouraging local, state and federal public officials, even those who haven’t yet decided on specific amendment language, to support these efforts by joining the simple call for constitutional remedies to overturn Citizens United and related cases. Officials can sign the simple declaration of support here. Activists across the country are encouraged to take the declaration to the public officials that represent them and encourage them to sign.

###

PFAW Rallies for Corporate Political Spending Disclosure at SEC

PFAW joined a group of bipartisan organizations and public figures at a rally outside the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Washington today to demand that the agency use its authority to require publicly-traded corporations to disclose their political spending. Currently, corporations can use their treasuries to spend unlimited amounts to influence our elections – but that money belongs to the corporation’s investors. If you’re one of the millions of Americans with a 401 (k) or similar retirement account, it could be your money being spent for political purposes without your knowledge or approval.

That’s why disclosure is so important. Democracy depends on transparency, and until we can pass a constitutional amendment to undo the harmful effects of Citizens United and related cases that have helped to bring on the current crisis in our elections, a SEC rule requiring corporate disclosure is a powerful start. At the rally, themed “Wake up SEC,” pro-democracy groups made the case that the SEC needs to do its job and protect Americans from the undue influence of wealthy corporations and special interests. The American people are increasingly alarmed by the effects of money in politics, and we need a regulatory agency that is not asleep at the switch.

To make the point, over 75,000 people sent letters to the SEC in support of the proposed rule.

 

 

 

PFAW

PFAW Joins Call Urging SEC to Require Disclosure of Corporate Political Spending

Publicly Traded Companies Should Have to Reveal Political Activity, Groups Say at Action

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) should require publicly traded companies to disclose their political activity, People For the American Way, the Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending (CAPS), Public Citizen, Common Cause, U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) and other groups said at a rally today held outside the SEC building. The action highlighted the need for disclosure of corporate spending in elections in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts from their treasuries to influence elections.

As participants in the Corporate Reform Coalition, the groups also pressured the commission to act through an avalanche of public comments submitted to the commission. Currently, more than 75,383 people have submitted comments to the agency. The Supreme Court endorsed full disclosure by an 8-1 majority in the Citizens United ruling and one SEC Commissioner, Luis Aguilar, has voiced his support.

“As we work toward a constitutional amendment to undo the harmful effects of Citizens United, a rule requiring publicly-traded corporations to disclose their political spending would be a powerful step toward curbing the undue influence that well-heeled special interests hold in our elections,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “A functioning democracy requires transparency – and today we urge the SEC to take action to uphold that fundamental value.”

To learn more about the Corporate Reform Coalition, visit: http://www.corporatereformcoalition.org.

###

Liberty Counsel Will Defend Scott Lively

Last week, a Ugandan gay rights group sued anti-gay activist Scott Lively in US court for allegedly violating international law over his role in Uganda's proposed "Kill The Gays" bill.

So naturally the good folks at Liberty Counsel have stepped up and agreed to defend Lively in this case: 

Liberty Counsel has agreed to represent Rev. Scott Lively, an evangelical pastor who was sued in a Massachusetts federal court by a foreign group called Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG).

...

The suit is a direct attempt to silence Rev. Lively because of his speech about homosexuality and pornography ... Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, commented: “This lawsuit against Rev. Scott Lively is a gross attempt to use a vague international law to silence, and eventually criminalize, speech by U.S. citizens on homosexuality and moral issues. This suit should cause everyone to be concerned, because it a direct threat against freedom of speech.”

PFAW Report: The Mythical Martyrdom of Jerry Boykin

A new People For the American Way Right Wing Watch: In Focus report identifies the techniques used by Religious Right leaders to portray themselves as victims of an assault on religious liberty. The report, The Mythical Martyrdom of Jerry Boykin, examines the anti-Muslim extremism of Retired Lt. Gen. Boykin that derailed an offer to speak at West Point Military Academy, as well as the tactics he employs to legitimize his own religious and political agenda.

“Lt. Gen. Boykin’s claim that Muslims have no First Amendment rights and that the United States is at war with Islam are contrary to basic American values,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “His attacks against Muslims are so extreme he was even publicly rebuked by President George W. Bush. It is ironic that a man who so fundamentally misunderstands our Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of worship to all Americans is playing the victim of religious oppression. In reality, Boykin is just a part of the far-right effort to use the banner of religious freedom as cover for spreading fear and intolerance.”

The report, available here, explores five propaganda techniques employed by the religious right to obfuscate issues and recast their objection to specific policies as an attack on the religious liberty of Christians, including:

  •  Distorting and reframing issues as a question of religious freedom and free speech;
  •  Mischaracterizing one’s opponents to marginalize their concerns;
  •  Whitewashing history by diverting attention from one’s past incendiary statements;
  •  Perpetuating lies in order to portray President Obama as hostile to Christianity; and
  •  Propagating myths and spreading fear about Sharia law.

“Right-wing activists and even some elected officials are using religious liberty as an excuse to denigrate others’ beliefs and hijack the policymaking process,” continued Keegan. “Calling out those who spread intolerance to further their own political agenda will help us all live up to the ideals enshrined in the First Amendment.”

###

Super-PAC Tuesday

Ten states are holding primaries and caucuses today, earning March 6th the title of “Super Tuesday.” Participants will show up, cast their vote, and hopefully feel good for participating in the democratic process and fulfilling their civic duty.

But thanks to Citizens United, and the Super PACs that flawed decision gave rise to, the voters are not the stars of this show. An outpouring of cash from a few extremely wealthy donors has dramatically altered the campaign landscape, altering the balance of influence from individual donors and grassroots donors to rich special interests and corporations.

As illustrated above by Dave Granlund, tonight’s contests should really be called Super-PAC Tuesday. NPR reports that in the ten states up for grabs, Super PACs have spent a whopping $12 million for ads:

Leading the way is Restore Our Future, the superPAC that backs former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. According to Federal Election Commission numbers, Restore Our Future has spent $6.9 million on the Super Tuesday states.

"The groups have clearly taken the lead in advertising for the whole Republican primary. They're very much taking the lead in advertising for Super Tuesday. It's mostly the 'Restore Our Future show,' followed by Winning Our Future, which is the Gingrich group, and Red, White and Blue, which is the Santorum group," says Ken Goldstein, who tracks political ad spending for Kantar Media CMAG.

Red, White and Blue has spent some $1.3 million on Super Tuesday, and has been running an ad in Ohio that goes after Romney for his alleged similarities to the man all Republicans want to defeat in November: President Obama.

These ads supposedly (and unconvincingly) act independently from a candidate’s official campaign, meaning that candidates are unaccountable for their content. But as Katrina vanden Huevel points out in today’s Washington Post, these superPACs reach “barely a legal fiction,” populated as they are with former staff and fundraisers for the candidates they “independently” support.  And this is in addition to the spending by 501 c-4 organizations the sources for which do not even have to be disclosed.

This is not what democracy looks like. We have to end unfettered political spending in our elections system – and solutions like the DISCLOSE Act and a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United are gaining steam. $12 million worth of ads on Super-PAC Tuesday alone should convince everyone that enough is enough.

PFAW

Hold House hearings on amending the Constitution to remedy Citizens United

February 14, 2012

The Honorable Lamar Smith, Chairman
The Honorable John Conyers, Ranking Member
House Committee on the Judiciary
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Trent Franks, Chairman
The Honorable Jerrold Nadler, Ranking Member
House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution
H2-362 Ford House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairmen Smith and Franks and Ranking Members Conyers and Nadler:

We are writing to request that the House Judiciary Committee hold hearings this year on the need to amend the Constitution to remedy the damage done to our nation by the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and related cases. That decision, along with prior and subsequent cases, have unleashed a flood of corporate and special interest money that threatens to undermine the integrity of our elections and our democracy.

In Citizens United, the Court ruled that corporations are guaranteed the same free speech rights as real people to influence elections, thereby ruling that governmental restrictions on corporate spending to influence elections are invalid and unconstitutional. As to that astounding principle, Justice Stevens noted in his dissent that the framers “had little trouble distinguishing corporations from human beings, and when they constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individual Americans that they had in mind.”

Congress may pass legislation to try to mitigate the effects of this decision, for example to provide for public disclosure of election expenditures. But such measures, while beneficial, cannot undo the harm done by the Court in Citizens United v. FEC. Only amending the Constitution can fully secure the American people’s authority to regulate corporate influence in our elections and restore our democracy.

So far in the 112th Congress, there have been 13 constitutional amendment resolutions about this issue introduced in the House and Senate. While these resolutions vary in scope and approach, they all were introduced because of the growing realization that the problems created by Citizens United and related decisions are so immense and so fundamental that they can only be addressed through constitutional remedies.

Americans have become increasingly distressed at the toxic effects of unrestrained corporate and special interest money that is influencing our political system. Fully 92% of the American people believe that the extent of corporate influence on our political system is a problem. Just one month after the Citizens United decision, polling revealed that eighty percent of Americans opposed the ruling.

As activists have mobilized and protested across the country on the occasion of the second anniversary of the Court’s decision, and as city and county councils and state legislatures take up and pass resolutions calling for amending the Constitution to reverse Citizens United, it is time for Congress to explore in earnest the range of resolutions that have been introduced to undo the harmful effects of the Court’s decision.

We urge you to use this session of the 112th Congress to advance the very healthy and critical debate about how the Constitution should be amended to return our democracy to the people.

Sincerely,

350.org
A New Way Forward
African American Ministers in Action
Alliance for Democracy
Americans for Democratic Action
Backbone Campaign
Campaign for America's Future
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Environmental Health
CivicSponsor
Codepink
Coffee Party
Common Cause
Communications Workers of America
Consumer Action
Consumer Watchdog
Democrats.com
Earthworks
East Bay Citizens for Action
Ethical Markets
Food Empowerment Project
Free Speech for People
Friends of the Earth
Greenpeace
Indiana Alliance for Democracy
Institute for Policy Studies - Global Economy Project
International Forum on Globalization
Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution
Main Street Alliance
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Move to Amend
MoveOn
National Education Association
Oil Change International
People For the American Way
Pesticide Action Network North America
Public Campaign
Public Citizen
Rebuild the Dream
Roots Action
Story of Stuff
Sum of Us
The Other 98%
U.S. PIRG
United Republic
We the People Campaign
Where's Our Money
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Wolf PAC
Working Families Win

cc: House Judiciary Committee, Members

Hold Senate hearings on amending the Constitution to remedy Citizens United

February 14, 2012

The Honorable Patrick Leahy, Chairman
The Honorable Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member
Senate Committee on the Judiciary
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Richard Durbin, Chairman
The Honorable Lindsey Graham, Ranking Member
Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairmen Leahy and Durbin and Ranking Members Grassley and Graham:

We are writing to request that the Senate Judiciary Committee hold hearings this year on the need to amend the Constitution to remedy the damage done to our nation by the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and related cases. That decision, along with prior and subsequent cases, have unleashed a flood of corporate and special interest money that threatens to undermine the integrity of our elections and our democracy.

In Citizens United, the Court ruled that corporations are guaranteed the same free speech rights as real people to influence elections, thereby ruling that governmental restrictions on corporate spending to influence elections are invalid and unconstitutional. As to that astounding principle, Justice Stevens noted in his dissent that the framers “had little trouble distinguishing corporations from human beings, and when they constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individual Americans that they had in mind.”

Congress may pass legislation to try to mitigate the effects of this decision, for example to provide for public disclosure of election expenditures. But such measures, while beneficial, cannot undo the harm done by the Court in Citizens United v. FEC. Only amending the Constitution can fully secure the American people’s authority to regulate corporate influence in our elections and restore our democracy.

So far in the 112th Congress, there have been 13 constitutional amendment resolutions about this issue introduced in the House and Senate. While these resolutions vary in scope and approach, they all were introduced because of the growing realization that the problems created by Citizens United and related decisions are so immense and so fundamental that they can only be addressed through constitutional remedies.

Americans have become increasingly distressed at the toxic effects of unrestrained corporate and special interest money that is influencing our political system. Fully 92% of the American people believe that the extent of corporate influence on our political system is a problem. Just one month after the Citizens United decision, polling revealed that eighty percent of Americans opposed the ruling.

As activists have mobilized and protested across the country on the occasion of the second anniversary of the Court’s decision, and as city and county councils and state legislatures take up and pass resolutions calling for amending the Constitution to reverse Citizens United, it is time for Congress to explore in earnest the range of resolutions that have been introduced to undo the harmful effects of the Court’s decision.

We urge you to use this session of the 112th Congress to advance the very healthy and critical debate about how the Constitution should be amended to return our democracy to the people.

Sincerely,

350.org
A New Way Forward
African American Ministers in Action
Alliance for Democracy
Americans for Democratic Action
Backbone Campaign
Campaign for America's Future
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Environmental Health
CivicSponsor
Codepink
Coffee Party
Common Cause
Communications Workers of America
Consumer Action
Consumer Watchdog
Democrats.com
Earthworks
East Bay Citizens for Action
Ethical Markets
Food Empowerment Project
Free Speech for People
Friends of the Earth
Greenpeace
Indiana Alliance for Democracy
Institute for Policy Studies - Global Economy Project
International Forum on Globalization
Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution
Main Street Alliance
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Move to Amend
MoveOn
National Education Association
Oil Change International
People For the American Way
Pesticide Action Network North America
Public Campaign
Public Citizen
Rebuild the Dream
Roots Action
Story of Stuff
Sum of Us
The Other 98%
U.S. PIRG
United Republic
We the People Campaign
Where's Our Money
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Wolf PAC
Working Families Win

cc: Senate Judiciary Committee, Members

PFAW Panel: Constitutional Remedies to Overturn Citizens United

PFAW is hosting a panel on Capitol Hill with members of Congress and state and local lawmakers to showcase the rapidly growing movement across the country to address the threat to our democracy from unrestrained corporate spending to influence our elections, made possible by the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC.

PFAW Praises Yarmuth-Jones Amendment to Protect Democratic Principles

Today, Congressmen John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Walter Jones (R-NC) introduced a constitutional amendment to restore fairness to our electoral system. The resolution addresses harm caused by the Supreme Court’s flawed decision in Citizens United by declaring that spending on elections does not qualify as protected speech under the First Amendment, giving Congress the authority to create a public financing system as the sole source of funding for federal elections and designating a national holiday for the purpose of voting.

PFAW Praises Ellison Amendment to Reverse Citizens United

PFAW Praises Ellison Amendment to Reverse Citizens United

Representative Keith Ellison (MN-5) introduced the “Get Corporate Money Out of Politics Amendment” today, a constitutional amendment that would empower Congress to regulate corporate influence in elections. The amendment would reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v.

ALEC’s Firm Hold on the Arizona Legislature

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a key voice for corporate special interests in state legislatures across the county, is welcomed with an especially warm embrace in Arizona, according to a new report released today by People For the American Way Foundation and Common Cause.

PFAW Foundation Invites Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn to Debate Arts Censorship and Religious Freedom

People For the American Way Foundation President Michael Keegan has invited Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn to a public debate on arts censorship and religious liberty in light of the controversy over a new exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum.

Violence Never An Option Against Peaceful Protests

Law enforcement officials broke up the Oakland offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street protests this week with tear gas and, some protestors say, rubber bullets. Violence should never be used against peaceful protesters.

Congresswoman Donna Edwards Introduces Constitutional Amendment To Reverse Citizens United

Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI) introduced a constitutional amendment that would restore to Congress and the states the authority to regulate corporate spending on political activity, including contributions in support of or in opposition to a candidate for public office. This proposed amendment seeks to overturn the Supreme Court’s deeply flawed decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which granted corporations the same Free Speech rights as people to spend money to influence elections. The amendment is similar to one introduced in the last Congress, and was introduced with the support of 14 other co-sponsors.

“We applaud this bold step by Representatives Edwards and Conyers to place limits on the corporate spending on elections which is hurtling out of control. It is time that we take down the for sale sign on our democracy and constitutional remedies such as that proposed by Representatives Edwards and Conyers are the only meaningful way to do that,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president at People For the American Way. “Reversing the damage caused by Citizens United is absolutely crucial to making sure that the American people – and not the deepest-pocketed corporations – hold the keys to our democracy. The pro-corporate Supreme Court is taking us down a slippery slope, and it’s time for bold steps to preserve the democratic promise of government by the people.”

###

The Smithsonian’s Censorship Forum....Over Four Months Too Late

A Smithsonian panel reveals that Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough did a huge disservice to the institution he leads and to free expression in the United States by removing a work of art from the National Portrait Gallery after a manufactured right-wing uproar.

As Smithsonian Continues to Duck Controversy, PFAW Report Draws Lessons On How Not to Respond to Political Bullies

A new report from People For the American Way draws lessons on ways institutions can respond to right-wing-generated controversies, by evaluating the chain of events that led to the Smithsonian’s removal of a work of art from the National Portrait Gallery.

How Not to Respond to Political Bullies: Lessons from the Smithsonian’s Response to the Manufactured Right-Wing Controversy Over Hide/Seek

A new report from People For the American Way draws lessons on ways institutions can respond to right-wing-generated controversies, by evaluating the chain of events that led to the Smithsonian’s removal of a work of art from the National Portrait Gallery.
Share this page: Facebook Twitter Digg SU Digg Delicious