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April 19, 2012  

Vermont Legislature Calls for a Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

Vermont Becomes Third State to Pass Resolution to Get Big Money Out of Elections and Rein in Corporate Power

WASHINGTON, D.C. – By becoming the third state in the nation to call for a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision and reaffirm that constitutional rights were intended for people, not for state-created corporations, Vermont today sent a clear message that more and more voters are demanding a fair system not dominated by wealthy interests. The state passed into law a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling, which opened the floodgates to corporate political spending.

Vermont’s resolution argues for an amendment that establishes that money is not speech and corporations are not people. It joins similar resolutions passed in Hawaii and New Mexico.Resolutions have passed at least one chamber in California, Alaska and Iowa.

“By fighting so passionately, Vermonters have put the state on the map as opposing corporate influence in our elections. Public Citizen is proud to have played a coordinating role with our Vermont partners in this movement victory,” said Aquene Freechild, senior organizer with Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People campaign.“The Vermont Legislature is the third state legislature to formally call for an amendment. I have no doubt it will be among the first to ratify.”

Added Public Citizen President Robert Weissman, “Today’s passage shows that a movement for a constitutional amendment to take back our democracy has gone from being considered a ‘pipe dream’ to the mainstream. Vermonters should be proud to have a leading role in driving forward this historic movement.”

“This resolution is a reaffirmation of the belief, shared by many Vermont communities, that corporations should not be allowed to engage in unlimited spending to unduly influence elections,” said Speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives Shap Smith. “With our longstanding tradition of town meetings and our citizen Legislature, any Vermonter can have an impact. We should stand together to fight any attempt to impede on our democracy.”

The House passed the resolution today by a 92-40 vote. The Vermont Senate passed the resolution last week 26-3. The resolution’s passage adds to the building momentum across the nation to rein in the power corporations have over our democracy.

Sen. Ginny Lyons (who introduced the Senate resolution) has persisted for more than a year, reflecting concerns in Vermont about the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. The effort was bolstered by grassroots efforts in 65 Vermont cities and towns that passed resolutions last month.

“Most Vermonters don’t believe that the founders of our Constitution intended for business corporations, whose sole purpose is to raise money for their owners, to be able to participate, on behalf of those owners, in elections,” said Rep. David Sharpe, who led the charge to pass the House version. “This decision by the United States Supreme Court effectively gave the owners of those corporations two ways to influence policies in our state and our country. Voters in towns all across the state of Vermont do not want their voices drowned out by the voice of corporate wealth and influence, and we call upon the United States Congress to take steps to reverse the decision of the Supreme Court.”

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Background on state resolution effort: The Vermonters Say Corporations Are Not People partnership, which worked together on town meeting proposals, also has worked to pass the resolutions at the state legislative level. The effort includes Public Citizen; Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, a Move to Amend affiliate; Vermont Peace & Justice Center; VPIRG; Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, founders of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc.; Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility; Move to Amend; Rural Vermont; Vermont Workers Center; Common Cause Vermont; Occupy Burlington; Vermont Action for Peace; and the Safe and Green Campaign. 

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