Aug. 30, 2012

President Obama Calls for Constitutional Amendment, Other Measures, to Overturn Citizens United

Suggestions Would Lead to Greater Transparency and Stronger Democracy

In a chat Wednesday with the online community Reddit, President Barack Obama called for serious consideration of a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, as well as other measures that would combat the overwhelming flow of corporate money into our elections. 

The president wrote, “We need to start with passing the DISCLOSE Act that is already written and been sponsored in Congress - to at least force disclosure of who is giving to who. We should also pass legislation prohibiting the bundling of campaign contributions from lobbyists. Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t revisit it). Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the Super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.” 

”Public Citizen applauds the president’s statement on this critical issue,” said Jonah Minkoff-Zern, senior organizer for Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People campaign. “Poll after poll has found that a large majority of the population, whether Republican, Independent or Democrat, believes that the Citizens United ruling is having a devastating impact on our democracy.” 

Public Citizen launched a campaign for a constitutional amendment the day the Citizens United ruling was handed down. The response to the call for an amendment has been tremendous. Nearly 300 local cities, towns and counties have called for a constitutional amendment. Seven state legislatures (New Mexico, California, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Hawaii and Maryland) have called for a constitutional amendment, and 23 others have introduced similar measures. In addition, 125 members of Congress have voiced their support for an amendment.

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court said that corporations may spend unlimited sums to influence elections. Since then, elections have been awash in record amounts of cash, and corporate-backed ads have inundated the airwaves like never before.

Public Citizen has championed other measures mentioned by Obama, including the DISCLOSE Act, and sees this bill and other disclosure measures as critical steps in the fight to halt the massive flow of corporate cash into elections. The DISCLOSE Act would require that political organizations release the names of donors that give more than $10,000.

“The DISCLOSE Act offers much needed transparency to our elections,” said Lisa Gilbert, acting director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “We hope that the president continues to be vocal about these important measures and that Congress will take action to strengthen and protect our democracy when they return.”

 For more on Public Citizen’s campaign to pass a constitutional amendment, please visit www.DemocracyIsForPeople.org.