Nov. 7, 2012

Chicago Voters Become Leaders in National Movement to Overturn Citizens United

More Than 74 Percent of City Voters Back Ballot Measure Asking Congress to Limit Corporate Political Spending

CHICAGO – Chicagoans joined the front lines of defense against corporate political spending Tuesday by overwhelmingly supporting a ballot measure that called on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

“Chicago voters, along with their counterparts in Colorado, Montana and dozens of cities across the country, sent an unequivocal message that they are fed up with big money in politics and want a fundamental overhaul of the system,” said Rey Lopez-Calderon, executive director of Common Cause/IL. “Citizens understand that despite what the Supreme Court said in the Citizens United case, money is not speech and corporations should not have the same free speech rights as ‘we the people.’ The test now will be whether members of Congress act upon clear instructions from their constituents.”

The drive to pass the Chicago resolution was led by Common Cause, Illinois PIRG, MoveOn, Move to Amend Greater Chicago and Public Citizen’s Democracy is for People campaign. Common Cause Illinois launched the coalition that worked together with Alderman Joe Moore, who championed the effort in the Council. The ballot measure was led by Common Cause and Public Citizen.

“Voters in the Windy City echo the sentiment of people nationwide in calling for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of our elections. It’s time to get the money out of politics, and the voters back in.” said Aquene Freechild, senior organizer with Public Citizen's Democracy Is For People Campaign.

In July, the Chicago City Council unanimously passed its own resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United, the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts to influence elections.

Voters in Colorado, Montana, dozens of towns in Massachusetts, San Francisco, and other smaller cities and counties including Ashland, Ore., and Kane County, Ill., also approved ballot measures calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United (the Kane County measure also passed with 74 percent) Common Cause worked to place pro-amendment ballot questions in front of more than seven million voters as part of its Amend 2012 campaign.

“Move to Amend Greater Chicago is proud of the work that our coalition has done to put this question to the voters. As far as MTA Greater Chicago sees it, the people of Chicago have said that corporations are not people and that money is not the same thing as speech. We look forward to our continued partnership with Common Cause and our other partners, as we push back against the millionaires and billionaires that would buy our elections,” said Sharon Sanders with Move to Amend Greater Chicago.

“Tuesday’s Amend 2012 victories are the leading edge of a national wave of support for getting control of political spending,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “We’re already exploring potential pro-amendment ballot campaigns during 2014 in Arkansas, Maine and other states and we’re continuing to push state and local governments across the country to pass resolutions in support of an amendment.”

The Chicago measure passed with 74 percent support.

Additional information:

- 83% of Americans (85% of Democrats, 81% of Republicans and 78% of Independents) think there should be limits on how much money corporations can give in elections.

- Republicans, Democrats and Independents who have heard about Citizens United believe by an almost 4-to-1 margin that the ruling is having a negative effect.

- 11 states have called for Congress to propose a constitutional amendment via legislative action: Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Hawaii, Maryland, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont previously, and yesterday, Colorado and Montana passed ballot measures calling for an amendment.

- More than 330 U.S. municipalities have passed resolutions in favor of an amendment, including at least 70 in Massachusetts.

- 11 state attorneys general, including Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, have written to Congress urging the passage of an amendment.

- 115+ national organizations support a constitutional amendment.

- More than 2 million people have signed petitions in support of an amendment.