Oct. 9, 2012  

Citizens Deliver Petition to West Virginia Legislature, Demand End to Citizens United

Activists Urge West Virginia to Pass a Resolution Supporting Constitutional Amendment to End Corporate Control of Elections

Today, concerned citizens in West Virginia presented petitions to House Speaker Richard Thompson, Senate President Jeffrey Kessler and other members of the West Virginia Legislature, calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Activists from CREDO, Public Citizen, West Virginians for Democracy and West Virginia Citizen Action delivered a petition with more than 2,700 signatures calling for an amendment.

Kessler accepted the petition and said he agreed with the message of the petitioners. “It is absurd to believe our founding fathers envisioned corporations being considered as people and entitled to protections of anonymous free speech rights,” he said.

In West Virginia, super PACs and other organizations, many from out of state, have spent more than $1.7 million to influence elections during this cycle, according to data from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office and analysis by OpenSecrets.org. 

“We are now in the middle of the most expensive campaign season in history, full of unlimited and unaccountable ‘mystery’ money that is buying access to voters in a way that is unprecedented and appalling,” said Gary Zuckett, executive director of West Virginia Citizen Action. “In February, the first item before our legislators should be a resolution in support of a constitutional amendment to undo the damage of the misguided Citizens United Supreme Court ruling.”
 
The West Virginia Legislature already has shown significant support for a resolution to curb this corruptive spending; in the 2012 legislative session, a resolution was introduced with 56 sponsors in the House of Delegates (out of 100 delegates) and 10 sponsors in the Senate (out of 34 senators).

“By demanding a resolution to overturn Citizens United, the people of West Virginia are leading the way in the fight to take back our democracy from the corrupting influence of corporations,” said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, senior organizer for Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People campaign.

Citizens United poses a great threat to our country because it allows unlimited amounts of money from corporations and the super-rich to flow into election campaigns. Since the 2010 ruling, super PACs, trade associations and other groups – many of which hide the identities of their donors – have spent millions of dollars to sway elections, in some cases outspending individual campaigns by a ratio of 2-to-1. According to a report put out by the Sunlight Foundation, Citizens United accounts for 78 percent of outside spending in the 2012 election cycle.

Momentum is building for a constitutional amendment to reverse this decision and reaffirm that our elected officials should be beholden to the people, not to corporate interests. Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike are calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and get corporate and wealthy donor money out of our elections.

Already, seven states have passed resolutions calling for an amendment to overturn Citizens United. In addition, more than 125 members of Congress have indicated they support an amendment. And President Barack Obama publicized his support recently for a constitutional amendment in a Reddit chat room.

 To learn more about Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People campaign, visit http://democracyisforpeople.org.