Berkshire Environmental Action Team, Common Cause Massachusetts, Corporate Accountability International, Free Speech for People, Greater Boston Coffee Party, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Nurses Association, Mass VOTE, Public Citizen
Jan. 18, 2012
Massachusetts Lawmakers and Activists Call for the End of Corporate Political Spending
On Anniversary of Citizens United Decision, Massachusetts Pushes for a Constitutional Amendment to Overturn It
BOSTON – In advance of the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission,Massachusetts lawmakers joined state and national organizations and activists today at the state Capitol to support a state legislative resolution calling on the U.S. Congress to overturn the ruling and restore fair elections and constitutional rights to the people.
S. 772, “The People’s Rights Resolution,” introduced by State Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) and State Rep. Cory Atkins (D-Concord), decries the court’s ruling as a “serious and direct threat to our democracy.” If passed, the resolution would have the Massachusetts Legislature call upon the U.S. Congress to “pass and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to restore the First Amendment and fair elections to the people.”
“The Citizens United decision dramatically dilutes the voice of every American who does not control a large corporate treasury,” said Eldridge. “The health of our democracy and the integrity of our political system are at stake, and the only effective, long-term solution is to pass a constitutional amendment that will overturn this misguided, destructive decision.”
The assembled lawmakers and organizations also urged the Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee to advance this resolution by scheduling a hearing next month as well as a vote to bring the resolution to the floor.
“Our democracy is at risk,” said Atkins. “The Citizens United decision opened the floodgates, allowing unlimited corporate money to flow into politics. We must pass a constitutional amendment stating that people, not corporations, have a right to free speech. Only by preserving the voice of individual citizens can we protect our democracy.”
In the wake of the Citizens United decision, campaign spending by outside groups has skyrocketed.In the 2010 election cycle, the first since the Supreme Court decision, outside groups spent nearly $300 million.
“The fundamental question facing the nation today is whether people or corporations shall govern in America,” said John Bonifaz, the co-founder and director of Free Speech For People, a national campaign launched on the day of the Citizens United ruling to press for a 28th Amendment to the Constitution to overturn the ruling and make clear that corporations are not people with constitutional rights. Free Speech For People has targeted Massachusetts as one of the first states to pass a state legislative resolution in support of such a constitutional amendment. “With the passage of this resolution, Massachusetts can help lead the way in restoring American democracy to the people,” Bonifaz said.
Super PACs have emerged as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, amassing huge amounts of money used for attack ads, such as those aired recently leading up to the Iowa caucuses. Super PACs are expected to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in the 2012 elections. All of this corporate money promises to help make this election record-setting.
“Big corporations aren’t run by the 99 percent – or even by the 1 percent. Rather, they are run by a super-wealthy 0.01 percent,” said Avi Green, executive director of Mass VOTE. “Politics should be for all of us – not just the super-wealthy and the big corporations they control.”
Today’s 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 take action to protect our democracy from corporate dominance.
“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.”
Cities across the nation have voted to rid elections of corporate cash. In Massachusetts, local groups are planning actions across the state around the anniversary – including rallies and educational events on Jan. 20 and 21 – and are advancing local resolutions similar to S. 772 to build support for its passage.
“We need short-term responses to this disastrous decision, such as increased disclosure,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “But we can only reverse it and reduce money in politics with a constitutional amendment. Passing S. 772 will put Massachusetts on the forefront of that critical effort, which, as the cradle of liberty, is where we should be.”