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Feb. 2, 2010

Several Congressional Leaders Begin Dialogue On a Constitutional Amendment to Redress Unlimited Corporate Spending in Elections

Statement of Craig Holman, Government Affairs Lobbyist, Public Citizen

The call for a constitutional amendment is never to be taken lightly. But the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission strikes at the very core of democracy. By a 5-4 majority, the court ruled that corporations have the same First Amendment rights as human beings, entitling them to make unlimited corporate expenditures in elections. This ruling runs contrary to America’s century-old political culture that corporations cannot spend their treasury funds supporting or attacking candidates.

Public Citizen applauds the calls of Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) to clarify through a constitutional amendment that corporations are not given First Amendment rights under our Constitution to make unlimited political expenditures.

In the words of Sen. Kerry: “Amending the Constitution is a serious endeavor and some of the sharpest minds in the country are working together right now to construct language for an amendment that would solve the problem and get to the heart of the issue. I'm ready to work with them and with the activists it will take to get an amendment ratified.”

Sen. Specter further explains: “Today’s court decision rejects 100 years of precedent and our democratic principles. To call corporate money free speech is judicial activism.”

Rep. Boswell highlights the dangers to democracy by the ruling: “The Court’s elevation of corporate speech inevitably overpowers the speech and interests of human citizens who do not have the coffers to speak as loudly.”

Reps. Kaptur straightforwardly concludes: “The ruling in the case of Citizens United v. FEC has opened the flood gates for a wave of big money to drown the voices of the American people … The only way to protect against further deleterious decisions, and to ensure the integrity of our electoral system, is to amend the United States Constitution.”

Reps. Edwards and Conyers join in the call: “Free speech rights are for people, not corporations.”

With the leadership of these members of Congress, America will begin a national dialogue on the appropriate constitutional remedy to redress the dangers of unlimited corporate spending in our elections.

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