Learn more about our policy experts.

Media Contacts

Angela Bradbery, Director of Communications
w. (202) 588-7741
c. (202) 503-6768
abradbery@citizen.org, Twitter

Barbara Holzer, Broadcast Manager
w. (202) 588-7716
bholzer@citizen.org

Karilyn Gower, Press Officer
w. (202) 588-7779
kgower@citizen.org

Other Important Links

Press Release Database
Citizen Vox blog
Texas Vox blog
Consumer Law and Policy blog
Energy Vox blog
Eyes on Trade blog
Facebook/publiccitizen

Follow us on Twitter

 

April 30, 2014

Constitutional Amendment Needed Now to Reestablish Rule by the People; Scheduled Senate Vote Applauded

Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen

Note: Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules & Administration held a hearing, “Dollars and Sense,” exploring ways lawmakers can deal with “dark money” – undisclosed money funneled through trade associations and other groups to influence elections – which exploded after the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) ruling. Retired Justice John Paul Stevens called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and other decisions at the hearing. U.S Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that he would push for a vote on S.J. Res. 19, a constitutional amendment that would restore power to Congress and the states to control campaign spending.

This country desperately needs a constitutional amendment to reestablish the core meaning of democracy: rule by the people.

In Citizens United and McCutcheon, but also in decisions that precede them, including Buckley v. Valeo, the U.S. Supreme Court has turned the First Amendment upside down, striking down campaign spending limits that enable regular people to have an effective voice in the political process. As Justice Breyer noted in his McCutcheon dissent, Big Money in politics “derails the essential speech-to-government-action tie. Where enough money calls the tune, the general public will not be heard.”

Today, Senate leaders announced plans to schedule a vote on S.J. Res. 19, which calls for a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United, McCutcheon and Buckley. Crucially, that amendment establishes that it aims to advance the objective of “advanc[ing] the fundamental principle of political equality for all.”

Here’s one indicator of how vital that principle is: Depending on how one counts, only 600 or 1,200 people ran up against the aggregate contribution limits overturned by McCutcheon. That’s the universe of people who will gain a greater ability to make campaign contributions as a result of that decision, to the detriment of the rest of the nation’s citizens. Here’s another indicator: The top .01 percent of the population was responsible for roughly 40 percent of campaign expenditures in 2012.

Public Citizen enthusiastically thanks Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and others who have led on this issue, and we pledge our strongest support for winning approval of the amendment. We may not win two-thirds passage this year, but the day is not far off when we will.

With the vote, every senator will be required to take a stand: Do you side with the forces of dark money or the American people? Are you for plutocracy or democracy?

The time is ripe for this scheduled vote. As a matter of both practical politics and constitutional jurisprudence, the McCutcheon decision was another devastating blow to the foundation of our democracy. As evidenced most recently with more than 150 demonstrations in 41 states that erupted in protest of McCutcheon on the day it was handed down, the American people are not just disgusted, they are angry and demanding far-reaching action to return control of our elections and our country to We, the People.

###

Copyright © 2014 Public Citizen. Some rights reserved. Non-commercial use of text and images in which Public Citizen holds the copyright is permitted, with attribution, under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons License. This Web site is shared by Public Citizen Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation. Learn More about the distinction between these two components of Public Citizen.


Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation

 

Together, two separate corporate entities called Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation, Inc., form Public Citizen. Both entities are part of the same overall organization, and this Web site refers to the two organizations collectively as Public Citizen.

Although the work of the two components overlaps, some activities are done by one component and not the other. The primary distinction is with respect to lobbying activity. Public Citizen, Inc., an IRS § 501(c)(4) entity, lobbies Congress to advance Public Citizen’s mission of protecting public health and safety, advancing government transparency, and urging corporate accountability. Public Citizen Foundation, however, is an IRS § 501(c)(3) organization. Accordingly, its ability to engage in lobbying is limited by federal law, but it may receive donations that are tax-deductible by the contributor. Public Citizen Inc. does most of the lobbying activity discussed on the Public Citizen Web site. Public Citizen Foundation performs most of the litigation and education activities discussed on the Web site.

You may make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., Public Citizen Foundation, or both. Contributions to both organizations are used to support our public interest work. However, each Public Citizen component will use only the funds contributed directly to it to carry out the activities it conducts as part of Public Citizen’s mission. Only gifts to the Foundation are tax-deductible. Individuals who want to join Public Citizen should make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., which will not be tax deductible.

 

To become a member of Public Citizen, click here.
To become a member and make an additional tax-deductible donation to Public Citizen Foundation, click here.