Momentum to free elections from corporate influence is growing by the month. A bipartisan majority of both houses of Delaware’s General Assembly have signed a letter calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment reversing the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Delaware is now the 15th state to call for such an amendment, after Maine, West Virginia and Illinois passed similar resolutions over the past two months. Known as “the First State” for being the first to ratify the U.S. Constitution, Delaware is maintaining that tradition of leadership by being one of the early states to stand for voter ownership of political campaigns.
A total of 24 state representatives and 11 state senators signed their names to the letter, which is addressed to U.S. Sens. Thomas Carper (D–Del.) and Chris Coons (D–Del.) and U.S. Rep. John Carney (D–Del.).
The letter, which was initiated by state Rep. Paul Baumbach and state Sen. Bryan Townsend, reads in part,
There is no more critical foundation to our government than citizens’ confidence in fair and free elections. The Citizens United decision directly undermines this confidence, and was issued in the absence of any evidence or searching inquiry to refute the fair assumption that unbridled and opaque spending in politics harms American democracy. […] The United States of America’s elections should not be permitted to go to the highest bidder, and yet this is the risk that rises from the ashes of the Citizens United decision.
The letter represents the second major response to Citizens United in the past two years in Delaware. In 2012, Common Cause Delaware and Public Citizen helped pass a bill requiring reporting of independent political expenditures in excess of $10,000 in Delaware. Common Cause Delaware also played a leadership role in securing this victory for free elections.
Polls show that no matter which party they identify with, Americans simply want their voices to be heard and listened to by lawmakers. Eight in 10 Americans say they oppose the Citizens United decision; it’s only a matter of time before public opinion becomes visible and powerful enough that a majority of Congress is moved to follow it.
So far, 14 other states have called for an amendment to overturn Citizens United. Connecticut and Maryland also used sign-on letters, while Colorado and Montana made the call through ballot initiatives. Resolutions calling for the constitutional amendment were passed by the legislatures of California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia, as well as by the D.C. Council in Washington, D.C. Nearly 500 local municipalities also have called for an amendment.
Public Citizen is proud to work with lead groups Common Cause Delaware and Americans for Democratic Action on this effort, with assistance from People For The American Way.
Jonah Minkoff-Zern is a senior organizer with Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign.