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Feb. 3, 2010

Public Citizen to Congress: Strong Responses Needed to Offset the Corporate Onslaught Expected from the Citizens United Decision

Public Citizen Submits Testimony to Congressional Committees

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A strong shareholder protection act, robust public financing of elections and a constitutional amendment are three powerful and necessary steps to counter the recent Supreme Court decision unleashing unlimited corporate spending in local, state and federal elections, Public Citizen told congressional lawmakers today.

In testimony submitted to three congressional committees, Public Citizen applauded them for recognizing the danger and conducting hearings on how best to respond to the expected corporate flood of money in the 2010 congressional elections and beyond.

The Senate Rules Committee, House Administration Committee and House Judiciary Committee have conducted hearings this week examining the ramifications and potential responses to the court ruling, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

“Corporations are not people, they do not vote, and they should not be able to influence election outcomes,” Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said. “It is time to end the debate about the freedom of speech of for-profit corporations by amending the Constitution to make clear that First Amendment rights belong to natural persons and the press, and do not apply to for-profit corporations.”

Several members of Congress have expressed support for a constitutional amendment as a decisive response to the court, including Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), and Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.).

“Swift and decisive legislative responses to unlimited corporate spending in elections must include public financing of elections, such as the Fair Elections Now Act, to provide candidates with the resources to answer corporate attack ads,” said David Arkush, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.

Another important way to rein in corporate political spending is a strong shareholder protection act. Legislation introduced by Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) would require that corporate political expenditures be approved by all shareholders and disclosed to the public.

“Corporate executives should not be able to take other people’s money - corporate funds from investors and shareholders, including funds that citizens invest into retirement accounts - and spend it to further their own political agenda without shareholders’ consent or even knowledge,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen.

On the day the Citizens United decision was announced, Public Citizen launched a petition drive for a constitutional amendment. More than 27,000 people have signed. For more information about the amendment and the petition drive, visit www.DontGetRolled.org.

READ Public Citizen’s testimony.

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