CORPORATIONS ARE NOT PEOPLE AND MONEY IS NOT SPEECH

ABSTRACT: Many millions of dollars are being spent by special interest groups on our political campaigns. This level of spending makes it clear that wealthy special interests – individuals, corporations, unions, and non-profit organizations – are taking over our elections.

The only way to stop this undemocratic spending is through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution – because of the Supreme Court’s rulings in Citizens United and other cases. Overturning the 2010 Citizens United decision has broad support across all demographic and political groups, including 85% of Democrats, 76% of Republicans, and 81% of independents. And two-thirds of small business owners view the Citizens United decision as bad for small businesses.

Move to Amend, Wolf PAC, and other organizations are working to enact a corrective Constitutional amendment by introducing bills in state legislatures that call on Congress to enact such an amendment or, if Congress fails to act, calling for a Constitutional Convention to propose such an amendment. This legislation has passed in California, Vermont, and Illinois, and is pending in 13 other states.

If you’d like to participate in the effort to overturn Citizens United, contact Move to Amend or Wolf PAC via their websites. Both have local and national activities in which you can participate.

FULL POST: Many millions of dollars are being spent by special interest groups on our political campaigns, both for candidates’ elections and on ballot questions. Nationally, hundreds of millions of dollars were spent in 2014 by outside groups (i.e., not a candidate’s own campaign). (See previous post on 11/17/14 for details.) However, this is not just an issue for national elections. For example, here in Massachusetts recent outside spending included:

  • Governor’s race in 2014:                over $17 million
  • Two ballot questions in 2014:       over $23 million
  • Boston Mayor’s race in 2013:        over $  4 million

This level of spending makes it clear that wealthy special interests – individuals, corporations, unions, and non-profit organizations – are taking over our elections. The basic democratic principle of one person, one vote, is being overwhelmed by money. This money serves as a megaphone so that the voices and wishes of these wealthy special interests drown out the voices of average voters and citizens.

Making this situation even worse is that a growing portion of these huge sums is given by anonymous donors. (See previous post on 11/17/14.) This money is called “dark money” because its source is unknown. Anonymous donors means there is no accountability for the messages delivered. Furthermore, voters can’t effectively evaluate the credibility of the message because they don’t know who is paying for it.

The only way to stop this undemocratic spending in our elections is through an amendment to the U.S. Constitution – because of the Supreme Court’s rulings in Citizens United and other cases. (These rulings said that corporations and other organizations are people and have all the same rights as actual human beings under the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution. The rulings also said that spending money in elections [and elsewhere] is speech and is protected by freedom of speech rights.)

The American public broadly supports overturning the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which was the key to the avalanche of political spending by outside groups. Polling finds that 80% of the American people oppose the Citizens United decision with remarkably strong agreement across all demographic and political groups, including 85% of Democrats, 76% of Republicans, and 81% of independents. Similarly, 88% of small business owners view the current role of money in politics negatively and two-thirds view the Citizens United decision as bad for small businesses.

To address this situation, Move to Amend (https://movetoamend.org/), Wolf PAC (http://www.wolf-pac.com/), and other organizations are working to enact a corrective Constitutional amendment. They are introducing bills in state legislatures that take a two-step approach to advancing the Constitutional amendment necessary to reverse these rulings.

  • First, these bills call on Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment stating two things:
    • The rights protected by the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution are the rights of human beings only and not of corporations or other organizations.
    • Congress and the states may place limits on political contributions and spending to ensure that our elections are fair and that all citizens can participate and have their voices heard in a reasonably equitable manner.
  • Second, if Congress fails to act within six months, the bills call for a Constitutional Convention to propose this amendment.

Such legislation has passed in California, Vermont, and Illinois, and is pending in 13 other states. You can check at the Move to Amend and Wolf PAC websites to see if there is an initiative in your state. A call for a Convention to amend the Constitution needs to be part of the legislation because our current Congress is so indebted to and dependent on wealthy campaign contributors that it is unlikely to pass an amendment staunching the flow of campaign money on its own.

Four of the last 11 amendments to the Constitution began this way – with state resolutions pressuring Congress to act. Notably, the 17th amendment, which established direct election of US Senators in 1913, was passed by Congress only after many states had passed a call for a Constitutional Convention. Although such a Convention has never occurred, if one did occur, any amendment it proposed would have to be ratified by ¾ of the states in order to go into effect.

If you’d like to participate in the effort to overturn Citizens United, first, go to the Move to Amend website and sign their petition (if you haven’t already). Second, I encourage you to contact Move to Amend or Wolf PAC via their websites. Both have local and national activities in which you can participate.

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