Plutocracy or democracy; the rich or the rest of us; legalized bribery or law and order; corruption or common sense.
The choice facing the U.S. Supreme Court today in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission could not be clearer.
If the court decides to strike down limits on what an individual can give directly to candidates, parties and PACs, the real-world impact is plain enough. A few hundred people will be empowered to spend millions to buy elections.
We will see a rise in corruption both as the public understands the term – meaning the entire political system will shift still more to favor the super-rich – and as the Supreme Court defines it – meaning quid pro quo corruption.
There is reason to hope the court will decide to uphold current giving limits. Striking down the aggregate limit rule will require abandoning the underpinnings of Buckley v. Valeo, the foundation of current campaign spending law.
So, we must hope the court respects precedent and common sense.
But we shouldn’t have to hope. That’s why it’s time for a constitutional amendment to restore our democracy – an amendment that firmly establishes the people’s right to control campaign spending and ensure that we maintain a government of, by and for the people – not the superwealthy and giant corporations.
Editor’s note: See Robert Weissman speaking outside the Supreme Court today. View photos of the event.
By Darci Kovacs
In order to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Public Citizen is pushing for a constitutional amendment to limit spending in elections. Already, the fight to get corporate money out of politics has 16 states on its side – almost half the number of states it would take to ratify an amendment.
Now, after an intensely successful two months—with Oregon, Delaware, West Virginia, Maine and Illinois all backing a constitutional amendment—Public Citizen is taking the fight to overturn Citizens United to Congress for the rest of the summer.
So far, 111 lawmakers have co-sponsored such an amendment in this legislative session. But, 111 does not come close to the 67-vote supermajority in the Senate and 290-vote supermajority in the House of Representatives necessary to pass one.
So in the next month, Public Citizen’s Democracy is For People campaign is taking the momentum from the states that have backed an amendment and calling or visiting lawmakers who have failed to co-sponsor a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.
To get lawmakers on board, we need your help.
Today, Illinois became the 14th state to call for a constitutional amendment to rid elections of corporate money and unlimited spending. This bipartisan action by the Illinois General Assembly demonstrates continuing national momentum to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling.
Illinois is the third state in the past month and a half to call for an amendment; West Virginia and Maine passed similar resolutions last month.
The effort in Illinois was bipartisan, underscoring what poll data have shown: People of all political stripes are deeply concerned about corporations having too much influence over our democratic process. A measure calling for a constitutional amendment was on ballots across Illinois in November and was supported by three-quarters of voters.
We couldn’t be more excited about the new constitutional amendment proposal introduced today by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) to end unlimited and undisclosed corporate financing of American elections. The amendment proposal is titled the “Democracy Is For People” Amendment, after Public Citizen’s amendment campaign of the same name.
Public Citizen said that both lawmakers once again are showing their creative leadership in the campaign for a constitutional amendment to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Sanders and Deutch were at the forefront of the campaign immediately following the decision, and they continue their leadership today.
Public Citizen president Robert Weissman, pictured above in front of the U.S. Capitol Building leading a protest on the first anniversary of the Citizens United ruling, said:
“The Democracy is for People Amendment introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Ted Deutch to overturn Citizens United will eliminate unaccountable corporate spending in our elections and restore governmental authority over campaign spending to the people. Democracy is rule by the people, after all, not rule by Goldman Sachs, Wal-Mart and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.”
Now this is a rebuttal.
Harvard Law professor John Coates earlier this month took the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to task for a comment that the corporate lobby group made on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) website.
In its comment to the SEC, the U.S. Chamber sought to discredit the research of Professor Coates and other academics whose work shows a correlation between corporate political spending and lowered shareholder value.
Professor Coates submitted his rebuttal to the Chamber as a comment to the SEC as well. Coates’ critique – rooted primarily in the Chamber’s dependence on flawed analysis by the Manhattan Institute – is well worth reading, both for its passion and its scholarly rigor.
Here’s how Coates opens his argument:
The Chamber’s comment relies primarily on ‒ and indeed, largely tracks ‒ a non-peer-reviewed, privately published white paper from the Manhattan Institute (the MI-lobbyist paper) written by a lobbyist who concludes, perhaps not surprisingly, that lobbying is worth paying for.