Citizens United Foes
Launch Amendment Drive
Advocacy Group Common Cause Begins State-Level Initiative Drive For 2012 That Might Include Arizona
The mighty dollar casts a large shadow on political campaigns. Image by Svilen.milev and used under the terms of a Creative Commons license.
By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine
Jan. 18, 2012 — In an effort to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, self-described non-partisan advocacy group Common Cause has launched a campaign created to secure a Constitutional amendment that limits or eliminates corporate contributions to federal elections.
Coined Amend2012, the first stage of the campaign is, according to the Common Cause press release, “A 50-state drive to give voters a voice to push back on corporate political spending, and build toward national referenda calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United.”
In order to spur Congress and state legislatures to support the amendment, Common Cause is mobilizing to, “give voters the tools to put "voter instruction" measures on the November ballot in as many states as possible, either by voter initiative or action by the state legislature. The measures would instruct Congress to adopt a constitutional amendment to make it clear that corporations are not people and authorize campaign spending limits.”
Although the goal is to eventually get 50 state legislatures behind an amendment, Amend2012 is “actively exploring” initiatives in Colorado, Massachusetts and Montana. In Arizona, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio and Washington, Amend2012, “will work with allies and activists on the ground to assess options.”
In non-initiative states, Common Cause will work to get bills introduced in state legislatures and major municipalities that would refer an advisory question to the fall ballot.
For those not in the know, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which was handed down in January 2010, was a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court that declared the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits government from placing limits on independent spending for political purposes by corporations and unions. The 5 to 4 decision was prompted by whether the non-profit corporation Citizens United could air a film critical of Hillary Clinton, and whether the group could advertise the film in broadcast ads featuring Clinton's image. The FEC interpreted the showing of the film to be a violation of campaign finance laws enacted by the McCain–Feingold Act.
In the two years since the decision, super PACS, which allow corporations and unions to contribute unlimited sums to political organizations which purportedly have no allegiance to candidates, have become the cash cow for the 2012 elections. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, as of Jan. 17, 278 groups organized as super PACs have reported total receipts of $32,008,813 and total expenditures of $26,118,452 in the 2012 cycle.
Most super PACS are fronts for candidates that bash opponents and endorse the candidate surreptitiously.
Restore Our Future, for example, is a super PAC that supports Mitt Romney. In the past two weeks, it has spent almost $8 million bashing Newt Gingrich and more than $200,000 bashing Rick Santorum. This super PAC only spent about $100,000 supporting Mitt Romney in two weeks.
The Winning Our Future super PAC, which is an under-cover supporter of Newt Gingrich, has spent more than $4 million in the past two weeks — more than $2 million attacking Mitt Romney and more than $1 million touting Gingrich and his policies.
Democrats, progressives and even many Tea Party activists have called for the end of corporate influence in the political system. Besides the philosophical question of making corporations “people,” it also has the ability to create more hostile electioneering.
“The Occupy movement, and the Tea Party before it, provides powerful evidence of the frustration Americans of all political stripes feel about our government’s coziness with special interests and unresponsiveness to everyday citizens,” said Bob Edgar, Common Cause’s president and CEO. “Amend2012 is a bottom-up grassroots strategy designed to give voters the tools they need to force the issue into the 2012 elections.”
“A huge majority of Americans reject Citizens United and want a government of, by, and for the people, not of, bought and paid for by the special interests,” Robert Reich, chairman of Common Cause’s National Governing Board, said Tuesday on a telephone press conference. “This campaign will help people make their voices heard at the ballot box, where the elected officials who must pass an amendment ignore them at their own peril.”
The campaign launched with a new website, Amend2012.org, featuring a call-to-action video with Reich using an animated whiteboard to explain the damage being done to our democracy by Citizens United, and urging citizens to get involved with Amend2012.
John Guzzon is editor of Modern Times Magazine.