On January 15, People For the American Way joined Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Representative John Sarbanes (D-Md.) and good government groups Public Citizen, End Citizens United Action Fund, Democracy 21, the Brennan Center for Justice, US PIRG, and Common Cause to discuss the decade-old 2010 Citizens United decision and the grassroots movement that has since emerged to reclaim our democracy.
To start the call, PFAW Executive Vice President for Policy and Program Marge Baker addressed the impact of this decision in our elections and in Americans’ lives. “In the decade since the Supreme Court handed down this appalling ruling, we have endured a relentless assault by corporations and wealthy special interests on a government that should be of, by and for the people,” Baker said. “The massive spending on our elections by these interests – overpowering the voices of everyday Americans – has led to devastating impacts that the people must live with every day – from racial inequity, to environmental destruction, to our struggle to provide people with affordable health care to much, much more.”
Rio Tazewell, PFAW senior campaign manager, emphasized that Americans of all political stripes have been pushing for reforms that would get big money out of politics. “Polls show that overwhelming majorities of the American public, up to 80 percent, want reforms to address the problem of money in politics,” Tazewell remarked. “Those numbers include majorities of both Republicans and Democrats. The movement in support of reforms such as the Democracy For All Amendment has taken off in the last few years and the momentum for ratification is truly building.” Tazewell also announced the release of a new PFAW report that further expounds on those calls to action.
Members of Congress on the call reiterated the devastating impact on our democracy and the urgent need to pass the Democracy for All Amendment and the For the People Act, both of which would help end the unbalanced, unjust system that Citizens United largely enabled.
Sen. Udall said, “Because of the stranglehold of big money on our politics, our government is not answering to the will of the people – as Americans grow increasingly frustrated waiting for their elected officials to act on their priorities, like gun violence prevention, climate change, and health care reform. That’s why I introduced the Democracy For All Amendment and the For The People Act with my Democratic colleagues in the Senate—to put the people back in charge.”
Sen. Shaheen offered an example to highlight one of many ways Citizens United has enabled big money to stifle our voices and our power. She said, “Millions of dollars from a shadow group were poured into New Hampshire to undermine bipartisan efforts in Congress to address a significant problem impacting middle-class families: surprise medical billing. This dishonest campaign is Exhibit A in how broken our campaign finance system is and why I’ll keep fighting for the Democracy for All Amendment – to give the power back to the people.”
Rep. Sarbanes, who assembled the For the People Act and led its passage through the U.S. House of Representatives followed. He said, “Last year, House Democrats swiftly passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act, a once-in-a-generation reform package to fight back against the torrent of big money in politics unleashed by Citizens United. By leading with H.R. 1, House Democrats made a clear commitment to put the public’s interests ahead of special interests and to restore trust, transparency and integrity in Washington.”
Listen to a full recording of the call here.