This post was authored by Mark Hays, the Campaign Coordinator for 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!
This has been a huge week for the Democracy is for People Campaign’s movement-building efforts on behalf of a constitutional amendment overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s atrocious 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. And the coming weeks will only be even more momentous, as this growing popular backlash builds into a full-blown national movement!
Yesterday, the New York City Council overwhelmingly passed a resolution asking Congress to pass an amendment overturning the Citizens United decision. The resolution was introduced by Council Progressive Caucus Members Steve Levin, Brad Lander, and Melissa Mark-Viverito, and backed by Speaker Christine Quinn.
Author and Public Citizen member Daniela Gioseffi was one of the lead activists approaching the Councilmembers about proposing the resolution. Our Senior Organizer, Jonah Minkoff-Zern, joined representatives from Occupy Wall Street (which formally endorsed efforts to rein in corporate constitutional rights and political spending the night before the City Council Vote!) and Move to Amend at the Council vote.
Ahead of the 2012 election, and what promises to be a tsunami of corporate political spending on elections, resolutions like the one passed in New York show that local activists are lining up against corporate interference in our democracy, setting up a face-off that may well define the future of our democracy.
It’s not hard to see why people are pushing back. As the dust settles from the Iowa caucuses, it’s clear that Super PACs were the “real” ‘winners.’ According to the FEC, Super PACs have already outspent Republican candidates by more than 2 to 1 in Iowa and other early primary states in this election. When outside groups with little accountability and little disclosure can eclipse the spending of even major party candidates, it’s clear the shadow that the Court’s decision casts is a long one, indeed.
Even in the judiciary, lower courts are taking issue with and even resisting the Court’s decision. Just this week, the Montana Supreme Court upheld a century-old state law that bans corporate spending in local and state political campaigns, citing the history of corruption that led to its adoption. Even while finding that Citizens United sadly invalidated all such laws and predicting a quick reversal by the U.S. Supreme Court, one of the dissenting justices took the opportunity to utterly eviscerate the idea that unlimited electoral spending by corporations doesn’t have a corrupting effect on political decision-making.
This is why Public Citizen’s Democracy is For People Campaign has had such wide success in connecting with activists across the nation. Already, activists working on their own or with local, state and national groups have helped pass over fifty local resolutions across the country.
This month, we’re kicking it up a notch. During the week leading up to the two-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s disastrous decision, Public Citizen and a growing coalition of other organizations will be hosting a series of events across the country to decry the Court’s decision and call for a constitutional amendment that would undo the court’s ruling and challenge corporate interference in our democracy.
Below are a few major events we’re taking the lead in organizing during the week leading up January 21:
Nationwide: On the anniversary of Citizens United, Public Citizen activists will hold actions calling out major corporations for their role in undermining our democracy. Across the country, people will be demonstrating outside of corporate franchises; many will be conducting citizens’ “investigations” to expose the true nature of the supposed “persons” that claim to have a constitutional right to buy greater access to our elected officials than us.
Check out Occupy the Corporations for more tips, ideas and resources to plan your own action on this day.
Maryland: On January 19, Public Citizen, Common Cause, Maryland PIRG, local peace and justice activists and other groups will join State Senator Jamie Raskin and other invited MD state legislative leaders at a rally in Annapolis. We’ll be celebrating the introduction of state resolution calling on Congress to send state legislatures a constitutional amendment that would to overturn Citizens United and restore constitutional rights and fair elections to the people.
Massachusetts: Public Citizen is also working with lead partners Free Speech for People and Mass Vote to hold a press conference and rally on Wednesday, January 18 At the Massachusetts State House with State Senator Jamie Eldridge and State Representative Cory Atkins, to show support for a resolution they’ve introduced demanding that Congress send forth a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and restore constitutional rights and fair elections to the people.
Vermont: Also on Friday January 20, Public Citizen is partnering with VPIRG, Move to Amend, Common Cause, Vermont Peace and Justice Center, WILPF and Occupy Vermont to host a rally at 3 p.m. at the Vermont State House in Montpelier that will show public support for a state resolution introduced by State Senator Ginny Lyons. Senator Lyons’ resolution calls on Congress to put forth a constitutional amendment that would reject corporate personhood and overturn Citizens United.
California: On the afternoon of Saturday, January 21, from 1-3 p.m., Public Citizen will join partners Common Cause, CalPIRG and a growing list of others at a rally in Sacramento on the step of the State Capitol to show support for a resolution calling on Congress to introduce a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and restore constitutional right and fair elections to the people.
These actions, as well as many others still in the works by us and our allies, will firmly put this movement on the map nationally and help We, the People seize this populist moment. People already know, instinctively and by ongoing experience, how corrosive corporate money can be to our democracy. After January 21, we hope they will know more about what they can do to stop it. We hope you join us!
To find out about January 21 Anniversary events near you, check out our shared events page at www.united4thepeople.org.