Constitutional Amendment

PFAW Staff Video on PeoplesTestimony.com

Under the banner of United For the People, a new web platform launched today to collect and amplify the growing grassroots movement in America that is calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s flawed 2010 decision in Citizens United and restore the balance of influence in our elections to the people.

At www.peoplestestimony.com, the American people, good government organizations and elected officials can record a short video about how their lives are affected by money in politics and the outsized influence in our elections enjoyed by corporations and wealthy special interests – and what we can do about it.

Here is one such video, by PFAW staff:

 

To see the rest, and to find out how to submit your own video, visit www.peoplestestimony.com.

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United Conference of Mayors Calls for Overturning Citizens United

At their annual conference in Orlando, the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously passed a resolution in opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, which opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate and special interest spending on elections. Citing Justice John Paul Stevens and the dissenters in the Citizens United case, the mayors’ resolution declares the need to “broaden the corruption rationale for campaign finance reform to facilitate regulation of independent expenditures regardless of the source of the money for this spending, for or against a candidate.” Finding compelling “fundamental interests” in “creating a level playing field and ensuring that all citizens, regardless of wealth, have an opportunity to have their political views heard,” the Conference of Mayors resolves that corporations should not receive the same legal rights as natural persons and that “urgent action” be taken to reverse the impacts of Citizens United in opening the door to unlimited independent campaign expenditures by corporations that undermines “free and fair elections and effective self-governance.”

The resolution calls on other communities, jurisdictions and organizations to pass similar resolutions. So far over, over 250 municipalities have already passed resolutions calling for amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and related cases and returning the power to influence our elections to the people. And more than 1600 public officials have gone on record in support of constitutional remedies to overturn the decision. More than 100 organizations have come together under the umbrella of United For the People to press for amending the Constitution to address the harm caused by Citizens United and related cases.

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Split Decisions Impact Immigration and Unions

Here’s a quick recap of the Supreme Court’s decisions during the past week: Unions are now further disadvantaged and despite some important changes to the state’s immigration law, racial profiling remains a viable option for Arizona law enforcement.

On June 21, the Supreme Court issued its decision on Knox v. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000. The case dealt with a labor policy several states have, known as agency shops, in which employees are not required to become members of the union representing their place of employment, but must pay dues since they benefit from the work the union does. At the point in which all employees working at an establishment that has a union presence are receiving higher wages, more vacation days, and overall better working conditions, it is only fair that all employees pay union dues and not free-ride off of just the union members who pay.

However, in the case of public sector unions, the Supreme Court held a generation ago that non-members have the right to opt out of having their dues used for political activity by the union, effectively weakening the union’s ability to operate on its members’ behalf. In Knox, the Court criticized the balance struck in 1986 and ruled that when the union has a mid-year special assessment or dues increase, it cannot collect any money at all from non-union members unless they affirmatively opt-in (rather than opt-out). This ruling addressed an issue that wasn’t raised by the parties and that the union never had a chance to address, furthering the Right Wing’s goal to hamper a union’s ability to collect dues and make it harder for unions to have a voice in a post-Citizens United political environment. To add insult to injury, Justice Alito let his ideological leanings shine through when he essentially claimed right-to-work laws are good policy.

After the Knox v. SEIU decision, the court released its ruling on the highly contentious 2010 Arizona anti-immigration law, known as S.B. 1070. In a 5-3 decision, the court struck down the majority of the southwestern state’s draconian immigration policy. The court ruled that much of the state’s law unconstitutionally affected areas of law preempted by the federal government, acknowledging the impracticality of each state having its own immigration policy. Oppressive anti-immigrant provisions were struck down, such as one criminalizing the failure to carry proof of citizenship at all times, and a provision making it illegal under state law for an undocumented immigrant to apply for or hold a job. The decision also recognized that merely being eligible for removal is not in itself criminal, and thus the suspicion of being eligible for removal is not sufficient cause for arrest.

Although the majority of S.B. 1070 was overturned by the Supreme Court this week, one component remains, at least for the moment. Officers can still check the immigration status of anyone stopped or arrested if they had “reasonable suspicion” that the individual may be undocumented. This keeps the door wide open for racial profiling. Arresting an individual is not the same as being convicted for a crime. Latinos and other minority groups can be stopped for a crime as simple as jaywalking and “appear” suspicious enough to warrant an immigration background check. By leaving this portion of the law, the US Supreme Court has, for the time being, allowed the potential profiling of thousands of Arizona residents, regardless of whether they are immigrants or US citizens, but has left open the ability to challenge the manner in which this provision is put into practice.

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US Rep joins Citizens United fight after Phila. passes resolution

A recently passed resolution in Philadelphia that calls for a democracy of the people, by the people, and for the people sparked a federal figure to declare his support.
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Supreme Court Reverses MT Court, Affirms Flawed Citizens United Decision

Any hope that the Supreme Court would reconsider the disastrous Citizens United decision was dashed this morning, when the Court in a 5-4 decision summarily reversed a Montana Supreme Court decision on campaign finance without even hearing oral arguments. Rather than acknowledge the obvious damage done to our democracy in the 2½ years since Citizens United was decided, the five arch-conservatives solidified the distorted electoral playing field they created that lets the powerful few overwhelm the rest of America in deciding our elections.

Citizens United struck down federal restrictions on corporate independent expenditures to support or defeat a candidate based on two premises: (1) the First Amendment gives corporations the same First Amendment right as people to make independent expenditures to influence elections; and (2) independent expenditures do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption. But late last year, the Montana Supreme Court upheld that state’s restrictions on corporate independent expenditures, citing its unique history of political corruption and the many factors that distinguish state and local races from the federal races at issue in Citizens United.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court quickly granted a request to stay that decision as likely at odds with Citizens United, two Justices pointed out the opportunity the Montana case raised to re-examine Citizens United’s faulty factual assumptions:

Montana's experience, and experience elsewhere since [Citizens United] make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations "do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption." A petition for certiorari will give the Court an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates' allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway.

Today, due to Citizens United and its progeny, political candidates’ top staffers go off to form purportedly independent “super PACs” to accept the multi-million dollar checks that the formal campaign cannot legally accept. Karl Rove and his allies are planning to raise $1 billion, much of it anonymously given, to impose Republican control over all levers of the federal government. Organizations like the Chamber of Commerce funnel millions upon millions of dollars from corporate coffers to buy up the airwaves, refusing to disclose to the American people who is paying for the political advertising they are bombarded with.

Even when wealthy donors hide their identity from the American people, they make themselves known to the candidates who benefit from their largesse. No one doubts their influence over the officials who they put into office – and who they could turn their millions of dollars against if crossed.

No one who has seen the transformation in our democracy in the past 29 months could possibly believe that “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” This basic factual assumption underlying Citizens United has been shown to be incorrect.

As Justice Breyer said in his dissent from the Court’s decision:

“[M]ontana’s experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the Court’s decision in Citizens United casts grave doubt on the Court’s supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so.”

The Montana case was the Court’s chance to right a terrible wrong and take our country off a dangerously anti-democratic path. History will remember this as a great opportunity lost to the American people.

PFAW

PFAW Panel on Constitutional Amendment at Take Back the Dream

At this week’s “Take Back the American Dream” conference, Representative Keith Ellison, Missoula City Councilman Jason Weiner, Rev. Barry Hargrove, and Maryland State Senator and Constitutional Law Professor Jamie Raskin joined PFAW’s Marge Baker for a panel discussion entitled “Overturning Citizens United: A Movement Mandate,” to discuss the growing grassroots momentum at the local, state and federal levels for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s flawed 2010 decision.

The standing-room only audience heard about a groundbreaking statewide ballot initiative in Montana calling for overturning the Citizens United decision by amending the Constitution, as well the pending Supreme Court decision on whether to hear the Montana State Supreme Court case giving the high court the opportunity to reconsider its decision. Panelists discussed the underlying need for amending the Constitution as the only effective way to reverse the harm caused by the Supreme Court in Citizens United. As put by Jamie Raskin, who is also a PFAW Senior Fellow, “For the sake of ‘We the People’ and our democracy, all corporate money is foreign money.”

The panel examined how this fight has galvanized the progressive movement as a whole, from jumpstarting voter registration drives to increasing general interest in politics and civic engagement.

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Context for the Effects of Citizens United

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision is commonly criticized by good government advocates because it has led to countless wealthy individuals and corporations making unlimited contributions in unprecedented amounts to groups attempting to sway electoral outcomes, often anonymously. As a result, those with means are able unfairly amplify their voices above that of average Americans.

To appreciate the magnitude of the ruling’s anti-democratic effects, it is important to consider the sheer amount of money that it takes to be a player in the Super-PAC game.

Sheldon Adelson, one of the world’s richest men with a far-right personal political agenda, plans to contribute upwards of $71 million in this election cycle, according to the Huffington Post. He is so determined to unseat the president that, after sinking $21.5 million on Super PACs supporting Newt Gingrich’s failed run, he is ready to refocus his efforts and spend similarly astronomical sums to support groups in favor of Mitt Romney and Republican congressional candidates.

His influence is real – $71 million can buy a lot of TV advertising, and ads funded by Super PACs and 501c4 groups can be particularly nasty because they are not officially “accountable” to a candidate. Average Americans, even those who can afford to contribute toward their preferred candidate, simply cannot compete on this scale. According to a friend of Adelson, “We think ‘$100 million, wow!’ But it’s a meaningless amount of money to him.”

In an interview with Forbes, Adelson acknowledged the reality that his extraordinary wealth allows him to influence elections in ways he otherwise couldn’t, in ways which ordinary Americans cannot. He doesn’t even think it’s a good thing, but that hasn’t stopped him: "I'm against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections," he said. "But as long as it's doable, I'm going to do it."

The only way to make hijacking our elections no longer “doable” is with a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. To anyone without a spare $100 million, the need couldn’t be clearer.

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Citizens United Continues to Stack the Deck

Two short paragraphs from a Wall Street Journal article about billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s political contributions vividly illustrate the damage to democracy done by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision:

Mr. Adelson has told friends that he intends to give at least $100 million to conservative causes and candidates this election cycle. He contributed some $250,000 to Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who just won against a labor union-forced recall election there.

But he has also told his friends and colleagues that he would prefer to keep his contributions under wraps in order to avoid controversy, and will likely focus donations mostly on non-profits affiliated with political PACS, which don’t have to disclose the names of donors. He is expected to donate to the conservative non-profit Crossroads GPS, which was founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove, a longtime friend of Mr. Adelson, according to Republican fundraisers.

The article was prompted by recent revelations that Mr. Adelson donated $10 million – the largest amount single donation so far – to a super PAC supporting Mitt Romney.

Adelson is credited for single-handedly keeping Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign afloat (for a while, at least), and he has long been pressured by Republican fundraisers to support Mr. Romney. Thanks to Citizens United, one very wealthy individual has the power to donate unlimited amounts to super PACS that are unaccountable to the public. And, as is the case with special interests who try to use their enormous wealth to skew elections, Adelson would prefer to keep his activities a secret so no one even knows who’s buying the race. Thanks to Citizens United, he can do exactly that.

PFAW

New Report Grades States' Response to Citizens United

A new report by the Corporate Reform Coalition released this morning grades each state's response to the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United, the flawed decision that opened the floodgates to unlimited, undisclosed spending by corporations and special interests to influence our elections. The decision forced 22 states to reexamine their laws on the books that limited such expenditures.

The report, "Sunlight State By State After Citizens United," examines how many states either repealed their corporate expenditure bans or declared them unenforceable in the wake of Citizens United. Montana is the notable exception, claiming that its law is still valid. That claim will be reviewed by the Supreme Court.

Other states have adopted more creative approaches to ensure that the public is informed about the outsized influence in our elections that corporations try to buy with their vast treasuries. For example, Alaska, California and North Carolina require the disclosure of the top contributors to political ads, and Iowa requires that shareholders be directly informed of corporate political spending.

The Corporate Reform Coalition, which is composed of more than 75 good-government groups seeking to combat undisclosed money in elections, evaluated each state's response to the Citizens United decision by scoring disclosure requirements related to political spending. While only a constitutional amendment to reverse the Court's decision can undo the damage of Citizens United, disclosure requirements are an important step toward a more transparent democracy.

AK, CA, CO, HI IA, IL, MA, NC, SD, VT, WA, WI and WV all received the top score. IN, SC, WY, NY and ND received the lowest scores.

You can read the report here.

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Senators Argue for Constitutional Amendment, DISCLOSE Act on Senate Floor

On Capitol Hill yesterday, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkely (D-OR), Tom Udall (D-NM) and others took to the floor to speak about the state of campaign finance today, thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. Although the only way to completely fix the decision would be for the Supreme Court to reverse itself or to pass a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, the DISCLOSE Act of 2012 (“Disclose 2.0”) is critically important legislation that would bring much-needed transparency to the political process.

Sen. Whitehouse began by analyzing the dramatic increase in unregulated, anonymous spending in our elections. “In the 2010 elections, the first after Citizens United, there was more than a four-fold increase in expenditures from Super PACS and other outside groups compared to 2006, with nearly three-fourths of political advertising coming from sources that were prohibited in 2006.” He noted that outside groups are vastly outspending the campaigns themselves – yet there is so much overlap between campaigns and PACs that their differences are hard to distinguish.

“Our campaign finance system is broken. Action is required to fix it,” Sen. Whitehouse said. “Americans are disgusted by campaigns that succeed or fail based on how many billionaires the candidates have in their pockets.”

Senator Udall made the case that amending the Constitution to ensure that elections remain about the quality of ideas instead of the quantity of dollars spent is a worthy cause: “We cannot truly fix this broken system until we undo the flawed premise that spending money on elections is the same thing as exercising free speech. That can only be achieved in two ways: the Court can overturn Buckley and subsequent decisions based on it, something the current court seems highly unlikely to do; or we can amend the Constitution to not only overturn the previous bad Court decision, but also to prevent future ones. Until then, we will fall short of the real reform that is needed.”

“I know amending the Constitution is difficult, and it should be,” continued Sen. Udall, who then quoted PFAW Senior Fellow Jamie Raskin: "'A constitutional amendment always seems impossible, until it becomes inevitable.’” Sen. Udall also noted the growing grassroots movement that has led to more than 200 state and local resolutions calling for a Constitutional amendment that have been adopted around the country.

Senator Jeff Merkley engaged in a colloquy with Senator Whitehouse, focusing on the first three words of the preamble to the Constitution, “We the People.” The senators discussed the fundamental conflict with that fundamental value posed by the Citizens United decision. Watch below:

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

Recent polling indicates the vast majority of Americans believe that corporations and special interests have too much sway in our elections – a whopping 85 % of voters said that corporations have too much influence over the political system, and 93% said that average citizens have too little. Across all parties, a full 62% specifically oppose Citizens United, the deeply flawed 2010 Supreme Court Decision that opened the floodgates to massive corporate and special interest spending in our elections.

This deep disapproval is manifest in the growing grassroots movement taking hold across the country fighting for a constitutional amendment to overturn that decision. While there’s a long way to go, the people represented in these polls are making their voice heard, and our elected officials are taking action.

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, and are 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, New Mexico and Vermont (and in Maryland, where the state Constitution does not permit the passage of non-binding resolutions, a majority of legislators in both houses have signed a letter calling for a constitutional amendment). 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.

So far, 91 million Americans are represented by public officials who have declared their support for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. 24 Senators, representing 75 million constituents, have sponsored or cosponsored a version of an amendment. Across the Capitol, 65 members of the House of Representatives, representing an additional 16 million people.

Progress is being made, but there’s still more work to do to fill these maps with dark shades of yellow and green. But this is a “movement moment” – and with the ever-increasing support of public officials, advocacy organizations and citizen activists, it can be done.

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Capitol Hill Summit: Overturn Citizens United!

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.”

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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.

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President Obama Supports Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

Yesterday, President Obama announced his support of a constitutional amendment to reign in special interest money in elections. With his support the growing movement pushing to amend the constitution to overturn Citizens United is gaining even more momentum. The diverse coalition comprised of millions of Americans, small business owners and organizations concerned about the undue influence that corporations wield in our democracy has been raising its voice, and now our elected representatives in city halls and state legislatures, in Congress and even the White House are listening and taking action.

The Supreme Court’s flawed decision that opened our electoral system to unlimited, undisclosed and unregulated corporate spending on our elections needs to be undone. As the president’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, noted in a blog post, President Obama has always opposed the Citizens United decision and views a constitutional amendment as a potential solution:

The President opposed the Citizens United decision. He understood that with the dramatic growth in opportunities to raise and spend unlimited special-interest money, we would see new strategies to hide it from public view. He continues to support a law to force full disclosure of all funding intended to influence our elections, a reform that was blocked in 2010 by a unanimous Republican filibuster in the U.S. Senate. And the President favors action—by constitutional amendment, if necessary—to place reasonable limits on all such spending.

Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way, declares that a constitutional amendment is in fact, necessary, in a statement released to the press this morning:

Citizens United opened the floodgates to a wave of corporate and special interest money in our elections. Since then, Americans from across the political spectrum have joined together to support amending the Constitution to reverse the damage done by the Supreme Court and limit corporate and special interest influence in our democracy. As Justice Stevens pointed out in his dissent, there are problems with our political system, but few people would argue that a shortage of money is one of them.

Amending the Constitution is the only way to completely overturn the Court’s decision, and President Obama should be applauded for lending his support to the movement to restore democracy to the people. Americans of all parties and ideologies support amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and related cases.

This is a movement moment. Americans are sick and tired of government that puts the interests of the wealthy above the needs of ordinary people. Momentum for a constitutional amendment is growing every day.

 

PFAW

President Obama Supports Consitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

Yesterday, President Obama announced his support of a constitutional amendment to reign in special interest money in elections. With his support the growing movement pushing to amend the constitution to overturn Citizens United is gaining even more momentum. The diverse coalition comprised of millions of Americans, small business owners and organizations concerned about the undue influence that corporations wield in our democracy has been raising its voice, and now our elected representatives in city halls and state legislatures, in Congress and even the White House are listening and taking action.

The Supreme Court’s flawed decision that opened our electoral system to unlimited, undisclosed and unregulated corporate spending on our elections needs to be undone. As the president’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, noted in a blog post, President Obama has always opposed the Citizens United decision and views a constitutional amendment as a potential solution:

The President opposed the Citizens United decision. He understood that with the dramatic growth in opportunities to raise and spend unlimited special-interest money, we would see new strategies to hide it from public view. He continues to support a law to force full disclosure of all funding intended to influence our elections, a reform that was blocked in 2010 by a unanimous Republican filibuster in the U.S. Senate. And the President favors action—by constitutional amendment, if necessary—to place reasonable limits on all such spending.

Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way, declares that a constitutional amendment is in fact, necessary, in a statement released to the press this morning:

Citizens United opened the floodgates to a wave of corporate and special interest money in our elections. Since then, Americans from across the political spectrum have joined together to support amending the Constitution to reverse the damage done by the Supreme Court and limit corporate and special interest influence in our democracy. As Justice Stevens pointed out in his dissent, there are problems with our political system, but few people would argue that a shortage of money is one of them.

Amending the Constitution is the only way to completely overturn the Court’s decision, and President Obama should be applauded for lending his support to the movement to restore democracy to the people. Americans of all parties and ideologies support amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and related cases.

This is a movement moment. Americans are sick and tired of government that puts the interests of the wealthy above the needs of ordinary people. Momentum for a constitutional amendment is growing every day.

 

PFAW

PFAW Panel Highlights: Constitutional Remedies to Overturn Citizens United

People For the American Way hosted a panel (entire video) on Capitol Hill as part of a month of action surrounding the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The panel showcased the rapidly growing movement across the country to address the threat to our democracy from unrestrained corporate spending to influence our elections through a constitutional amendment. The American people have had enough of corporations and special interests holding the puppet strings in our democracy and are taking a stand in the halls of government – from city council and state legislative chambers to the halls of the U.S. Congress – by mobilizing our elected officials in support of amending the Constitution to ensure that “We the People” means all the people, not just the privileged few.

The panelists discussed the nationwide effort to restore the balance of power to the people and described their experiences in organizing toward and successfully advocating for resolutions to overturn Citizens United.

Senator Tom Udall described the necessity of bipartisan support on the path toward ratifying a constitutional amendment, noting that past campaign-finance reform efforts have enjoyed bipartisan support. Senator Udall acknowledged that when the people make their voices heard and build momentum, a constitutional amendment can become inevitable.

 

 

Colorado Common Cause activist Elena Nuñez discussed the grassroots enthusiasm behind stopping the flood of corporate influence in our elections. Time after time, noted Nuñez, local issues have been hijacked by out-of-state special interests, and activists are eager to organize around a constitutional amendment to stop the source of this problem.

 

 

Representative Keith Ellison described the court-led return to the “gilded age” and drew parallels to today’s progressive movement, concluding that a constitutional amendment is both possible and necessary to ensure that our government serves the people, not corporate special interests.

 

New York City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito described NYC’s determination to take a stand on the issue of money in politics and serve as an example for municipalities around the country. She described the significant campaign finance rules in place in New York, which serve to protect the people who would be disenfranchised simply because they lack the funds to compete with corporate lobbyists.

 

Representative Ted Deutch described the toxic political atmosphere created by the Super PAC fueled ads made possible by Citizens United, and that a constitutional amendment is the only way to prevent the corrosive effects of a government beholden to corporate special interests instead of the people’s interests.

 

 

Maryland State Senator and People For the American Way senior fellow Jamie Raskin discussed the consequences of the Citizens United decision as a shift away from the core principle of democracy “by, of and for the people.” The decision, Senator Raskin noted, brings radical changes to the nature of our democratic system, interpretations of constitutional law and even our imperils our economic system by incentivizing “vulture capitalism” or “crony capitalism.”

 

 

PFAW

Video from PFAW Panel: Constitutional Remedies to Overturning Citizens United

People For the American Way’s Marge Baker moderated a panel discussion on Capitol Hill about the necessity of a constitutional amendment to address out-of-control corporate spending on elections made possible by Citizens United. A rapidly growing constellation of elected leaders, grass roots organizations and by a 48 point margin Americans believe that deep-pocketed corporations should not be able to overpower the will of the American people. Supporters of constitutional remedies to restore the balance of power to the people have reached a “movement moment”: ten constitutional amendments have been introduced in the 112th Congress, and dozens of state and local resolutions opposing the decision have been adopted in towns, cities and states across the country.

Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way, was joined by Senator Tom Udall, Representative Ted Deutch, Representative Keith Ellison, Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin, New York City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito and Colorado Activist Elena Nuñez for the discussion.

 

“Money, lobbyists and special interests have too much influence and we’ve got to get control of it.” –Sen. Tom Udall

“At this moment, we have to amend the constitution to clarify that for-profit corporations cannot spend their money, every dollar of which they raised for commercial purposes, to influence the outcome of elections.”–Rep. Ted Deutch

“I introduced my constitutional amendment because I believe America should be a democracy, not a plutocracy.” –Rep. Keith Ellison

“This is not an anti-business thing. We want corporations to thrive, but we don’t want them to govern.” –Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin

“Money can drown out our voices…we have to take it out of the court’s hands and give it back to the people – and now is the time to do it.” –NYC Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito

“Once people understood that there was something we could do, that a constitutional amendment was a way to regain the people’s voice…people really gravitated to it.” –Elena Nuñez, Colorado Common Cause

PFAW

Marge Baker: We Are At a 'Movement Moment'

PFAW’s Marge Baker appeared on MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan show yesterday, where she described the growing movement to overturn Citizens United v. FEC, the flawed 2010 Supreme Court decision that ultimately led to the “Super PAC,” resulting in toxic levels of corporate and special interest money spent on influencing our elections.

“The only answer we really have to the toxic issue of money in politics is to amend the Constitution,” said Baker. “We are working with a constellation of organizations with literally millions of members around the country, including Public Citizen, Common Cause, Move to Amend, our organization People for the American Way, Center for Media and Democracy and Free Speech For People, we are all working together as part of this umbrella called United for the People, and we are working to call attention to the problem of Citizens United and urge the amendment of the Constitution to address the problems.”

This is truly a grassroots movement, and Americans across the country are demanding change. Throughout this month surrounding the second anniversary of the Citizens United decision, demonstrations at courthouses, statehouses and corporate headquarters have taken place across the country. Additionally, dozens of resolutions against the decision have been adopted at the local and state level. In the 112th Congress, ten proposed constitutional amendments have been proposed thus far.

“92% of Americans think there is too much money in politics,” continued Baker. “I think we’re in a movement moment. This movement is going to grow, and we’re going to see some real action.”

 

 

PFAW

Movement to Overturn Citizens United Gains Momentum as Anniversary Approaches

January 21 will mark the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate spending in elections, and the movement to overturn the decision is gaining steam.

As we approach the first post-Citizens United presidential election, we are already seeing the damage that unlimited and unaccountable money in politics can do. The 2010 midterm elections were dominated by secretive groups funneling corporate cash to political activities, and the Republican presidential primary has been greatly influenced by so-called Super PACs, which can spend millions supporting or opposing candidates.

In response to the growing outcry against Citizens United, People For the American Way has joined with a number of other advocacy groups to organize protests and organizing parties around the anniversary of the decision. People For’s Marge Baker writes more about the United For People movement in the Huffington Post today.

Marge will be discussing the anniversary activities and the push to overturn Citizens United with MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan this afternoon at 4:20 p.m. Eastern. Ratigan has a new op-ed out about the reasons to get money out of politics. Here’s an excerpt:

1) The Candidate With More Money Wins: From the 2008 elections: "In 93 percent of House of Representatives races and 94 percent of Senate races that had been decided by mid-day Nov. 5, 2008 the candidate who spent the most money ended up winning."


2) Congress's Main Job Is to Raise Money, Not Govern "Here is a general rule of thumb for US House incumbents. They need to raise roughly $10,000 a week started the day they are elected."


3) 48 Percent Say Most Members of Congress Are Corrupt "A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 48% of Likely U.S. Voters believe that most members of Congress are corrupt. Just 28% disagree, and another 24% are not sure."


4) Voters Think That Cash is King "A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Thursday indicates that 86 percent of the public thinks elected officials in the nation's capital are mostly influenced by the pressure they receive from campaign contributors."


5) No Trust in Elected Officials According to Pew Research less than 25% of people believe they can trust our government at all, particularly our elected officials.


Read the whole piece at the Huffington Post…and be sure to tune in this afternoon to hear Ratigan’s conversation with Marge Baker.
 

PFAW