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Maryland Lawmakers and Activists Call for the End of Corporate Political Spending

Jan. 19, 2012  

Maryland Lawmakers and Activists Call for the End of Corporate Political Spending

On Anniversary of Citizens United Decision, Maryland Pushes For a Constitutional Amendment to Overturn It

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – In advance of the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission,Maryland lawmakers joined activists today at the state Capitol to call on the U.S. Congress to overturn the ruling and help make elections more democratic.The Citizens United decision opened the floodgates to corporate cash in elections by allowing corporations to spend unlimited sums from their treasuries to influence voters.

As part of today’s activities, members of the Maryland General Assembly launched a campaign to gather signatures from their colleagues on a letter to send to Congress calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United ruling. State Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) initiated the drive.

“The Supreme Court’s radical departure from judicial precedent and democratic values has already brought a torrent of corporate money, much of it secret, directly into American politics, fundamentally distorting public elections and campaigns for public office,” Raskin said. “The decision poses a direct and dramatic threat to government of the people, by the people and for the people, and must be overturned.”

At today’s event, activists wielded signs that said “Corporations are not people” and “I am a person” – the latter alluding to the historic civil rights posters carrying the message “I am a man.” Maryland constituents and state legislators were joined by representatives of the Maryland congressional delegation.

The press conference is part of a nationwide week of action calling for the Citizens United decision to be overturned. From Massachusetts to California, events are planned to highlight the need for the federal government to enact meaningful campaign finance reform. In addition to today’s event in Maryland, Public Citizen is holding rallies this week in California, Massachusetts and Vermont. (More information is available at www.DemocracyIsForPeople.organd www.United4thePeople.org.)

“The groundswell of national grassroots activity in support of a constitutional amendment we’re seeing is tremendous,” said Mark Hays, campaign coordinator for Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign. “With this sort of momentum, we’re ready to write the next chapter of our campaign to ensure that democracy is for people, not corporations.”

The effect of the Supreme Court’s Jan. 21, 2010 ruling was evident in that year’s midterm congressional elections when campaign spending skyrocketed. We are once again seeing massive amounts of corporate money being funneled into the presidential primaries.

“The Supreme Court misread the Constitution and ignored common sense in Citizens United,” said Susan Wichman, executive director of Common Cause Maryland. “Most Americans are appalled by how big corporations and other special interests have hijacked our government and drowned out our voices by pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns from the courthouse to the White House. It’s time to restore common sense to our elections and democracy. We will not, we cannot, solve our nation’s other critical problems until we rein in the power of these special interests.”

In the 2010 election cycle, the first since the Citizens United ruling, outside groups spent nearly $300 million. Super PACs have emerged, amassing huge amounts of money used for attack ads, such as those aired in Iowa by Restore Our Future, the Mitt Romney-supporting Super PAC, against Newt Gingrich. All this corporate money promises to help make this election record-setting.

“Thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, corporations are in a position to flood the 2012 elections with money in an attempt to install lawmakers who will give them even more special treatment,” said Jenny Levin, state advocate at Maryland PIRG. “Special interest influence will only continue to grow and policy will reflect that – unless we limit corporate money in our elections.”

City councils ranging from Los Angeles and New York to Duluth, Minn., and South Miami, Fla., have decried the Citizens United ruling and passed resolutions calling for an amendment to overturn it. More than 60 national organizations working on environmental, labor and civil rights issues have signed on to a national call for a constitutional amendment.

“The Sierra Club endorses, campaigns for and financially aids candidates who will work for strong laws to protect the environment,” said Cliff Terry, campaign finance reform chair for the club’s Maryland chapter. “Our financial aid can hardly compete with unlimited contributions by deep-pocketed corporations seeking to weaken those laws and with the warm welcome those contributions gain for their lobbying.”