Seizing the Populist Moment: The Movement to Overturn Citizens United Steps Out

Mark your calendars for the week of January 21, 2012!

In just one month—approximately two years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission opened the floodgates to unprecedented corporate influence over our democracy—the growing grassroots movement to take back the Constitution for We the People is going to make its presence very much known on the national stage. 

Like MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan, we’re “Mad as Hell” that corporations have shamelessly gotten the courts to grant them the rights of natural persons when it can buy them outsized influence and drown out the rest of our voices…while insisting they’re quite different from the rest of us when it suits their interests, like when they’re being sued for human rights violations.

Demonstrators at the U.S. Capitol on the one-year anniversary of the Citizens United ruling. Mark your calendars for bigger and stronger actions nationwide surrounding the two-year anniversary next month!

And we’re far from alone. In a recent Pew poll, 77 percent of Americans agree that too much power is in the hands of the wealthiest among us and large corporations.   As former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich aptly puts it, the defining issue of this populist moment is not the size of government, but who exactly it stands for.

That’s where this Citizens United anniversary comes in as a “movement moment.”  Citizens will be taking a variety of different approaches to mark this troubling anniversary, but they’ll be unified in rallying their communities behind the need for a constitutional amendment to rein in corporate influence over the political process.

And we’re all in this together, cutting across numerous issues, constituencies and approaches.

The Rainforest Action Network recently issued a ringing call to action for January 21 that quite nicely sums up this broad interest in challenging excessive corporate power, whether the issue is fighting climate change, standing up for the right to vote, workers’ rights and protections, or a host of others too long to list. Overturning Citizens United is a huge, bold, and necessary step in the direction of “changing the rules of the game” for the better, and to the benefit of all Americans.

Overall, forty national, state and local organizations have similarly endorsed United for the People’s call to action for the days surrounding January 21, and will be mobilizing members to get involved with events and actions.  Many more are expected to sign on in the coming weeks.

For our part, Democracy is for People will be helping citizens “Occupy the Corporations.” We’ll be exposing some of the worst corporate offenders masquerading as “people” and tilting the process in their favor through political spending.  We even filmed a funny video at an infamous major bank to show how this might work!

Writing recently on Occupy Wall Street’s history, impact, and future—in a lengthy article titled “The New Populists”— writer Christopher Ketcham drew an important parallel between what is going on in America right now and past populist awakenings against the extreme concentration of wealth and corrupted political power.

Ensuring that politicians work for all of us is a task for all Americans.  The last few months’ momentum, and the actions that will take their message nationwide in just a month, are those of true patriots seizing this populist moment to renew our democracy.

Join us to make this one anniversary party we’ll never forget. Let’s get it done.

Sean Siperstein is a Legal Fellow with Public Citizen’s Democracy is For People campaign. Follow the campaign on Twitter @RuleByUs for the latest on the money and politics and the campaign for a constitutional amendment!