Public Citizen Presses to Overturn Citizens United
In January 2010, democracy was dealt a major blow when the U.S. Supreme Court decided, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend as much money as they want to influence elections.
Immediately after the decision was issued, Public Citizen launched a multifaceted campaign to overturn it. We are advocating a constitutional amendment specifying that First Amendment protections are for people, not corporations. We are pushing for public financing of elections to make politicians less beholden to private money. We are urging Congress to pass the DISCLOSE Act (Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections), which would let the public know which corporations and individuals are funding political ads. We are helping states prepare “pay-to-play” legislation that restricts campaign contributions and expenditures from government contractors. And we are promoting legislation that would give shareholders a say over whether – and how much – corporations spend on elections.
“The Supreme Court’s decision was a tragedy for our democracy,” said Robert Weissman, Public Citizen president. “We want to save our democratic government, and our efforts are aimed at doing just that.”
Corporations already have taken significant advantage of the court’s decision, showering more cash on the 2010 congressional elections than ever before. They funneled their money through independent organizations, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Crossroads GPS, a new group formed by Republican strategist Karl Rove. Those organizations then poured millions into races around the country, supporting candidates who would carry the corporate water. Of 75 congressional contests in which partisan power changed hands, spending by outside groups favored the winning candidate in 60.
Partly as a result, control of the U.S. House of Representatives shifted to Republicans, who have made it very clear that they want to advance pro-corporate policies.
“The elections in November illustrate just how damaging the Citizens United decision was,” Weissman said. “The recent elections show the importance of continuing to build our movement to overturn Citizens United and restore our democracy.”
Public Citizen is moving forward with an ever-growing campaign to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision. A Public Citizen petition supporting a Free Speech for People amendment attracted more than 72,000 signatures as of December.
We also worked with other groups, such as People For the American Way, to organize demonstrations around the country on or around Jan. 21, 2011, the one-year anniversary of the disastrous Citizens United decision.
Our efforts won’t stop there. Whether working at the grassroots or the policy level, we will make our message clear: Lawmakers should be responsive to the people who elect them – not beholden to corporations who shower them with the most money.
Keep up with our efforts at http://www.citizen.org/Page.aspx?pid=3850.
At Jon Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" held in October in Washington D.C., Public Citizen spread its message that corporations should not have more influence over government than people. Barbara Holzer (pictured), Public Citizen's broadcast and marketing manager, was one of the staff members who handed out about 5,000 signs to those attending the rally.