New York has become the 17th state to formally call for a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United.
Just look at all the states that support overturning Citizens United:
That’s nearly 40% of the U.S. population.
But we can’t stop now. Fully 80% of Americans believe we must overturn Citizens United.
Having a constructive debate on the most important issues of our time requires a working democracy. That idea requires a sensible campaign finance system and a government without a revolving door to and back from the lobbying industry.
Public Citizen was key to the successful campaign we waged in New Jersey in 2012 and Public Citizen was again important in New York. We applaud everyone’s efforts. Next up are Washington, Arkansas and New Hampshire, among others.
How far the movement has come!
Public Citizen is not the only group committed to a 28th Amendment. There are also these:
Money Out Voters In
Please Note, UPDATE: Soon after our victory in NY State, Rhode Island became the 5th state to call for an Amendments Convention to overturn Citizens United. So you can add a 5th “V” to the map above.
NY becomes the 17th State – More of the story:
After three years of the NJOCU coalition actively pursuing an amendment-to-overturn, We Finally Have a FULL SENATE VOTE SCHEDULED for MONDAY, 9/8! It is a vote on cloture, i.e. to close debate on S.J.Res.19. It is not yet the vote to pass the amendment proposal. But the cloture vote is significant (particular in this era of fillibusters in the Senate). We see a vote for cloture as a show of support for the amendment outlined in S.J.Res.19. Once debate ends, the actual bill may be voted on.
Despite broad voter approval of an amendment to overturn Citizens United, the two-party system has managed to divide on this bill. Democrats are running on the issue in November, while Republicans with a pro-money faction led by Senator McConnell are fretting over the implications. In this case, we have to side with Democrats. SJR-19 is a narrowly written and very reasonable amendment proposal that enables Congress to regulate its own elections and thereby limit the corrupting influence of money in politics. This is a reinforcement of Article 1 Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution. While the amendment could have done more than that, its sponsors decided to proceed with care. There is plenty of room for bipartisan support of SJR19.
SIGN THE PETITION in support of SJR19 to amend the constitution: http://tinyurl.com/m9856ow
Acknowledging the partisan politics, we would hope to see ALL Senate Democrats vote YES for cloture on S.J.Res.19 on 9/8. NJOCU gives a hat-tip to Sen. Menendez (202-224-4744) and Sen. Booker (202-224-3224) who have already cosponsored this bill. We encourage you to thank them by phone or by email. We also suggest that you call the remaining 5 Democratic Senators who have not yet gone on the record and ask for their support in some form. Or call a friend in that state and ask them to get involved. Some senate offices will accept input honestly presented as coming from a national constituency. As a member/supporter of any national pro-amendment organization such as Public Citizen, Common Cause, Free Speech for People, People for the American Way, Rootstrikers or Wolf-PAC you have many voters in every state standing behind you. Here are the non-sponsoring Democrats:
Pryor, Mark L. – (D – AR)
255 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Donnelly, Joe – (D – IN)
720 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Landrieu, Mary L. – (D – LA)
703 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Kaine, Tim – (D – VA)
388 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Warner, Mark R. – (D – VA)
475 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
For Democrats not ready to co-sponsor – fine. Ask them to commit to voting for cloture and then for the bill. Remind them: You can’t stand for the little guy, as Democrats claim to do, if you can’t even run without the big guy’s money. And we all know how that works. End the arms race of money. Many voters also see the gridlocked Congress as a product of dark money-driven, fear-based negative advertising. And even while the ads assassinate character and work the wedge issues, the parties are amazingly indistinguishable where moneyed interests are concerned.
For Republicans, the arguments are remarkably similar. Four quick points:
1) 80-90% of all voters want ALL the money out of politics
2) Small businesses want Citizens United overturned a disagree with money in politics almost 9-to-1
3) Congress’s do-nothing reputation is a direct result of the interference of BIG MONEY IN POLITICS
4) Most young voters, women and people of color believe the system is rigged against them, in large measure because they see how money corrupts the debate. They want an amendment and reforms.
McCain, John – (R – AZ)
241 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Murkowski, Lisa – (R – AK)
709 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Kirk, Mark – (R – IL)
524 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Paul, Rand – (R – KY)
124 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Collins, Susan M. – (R – ME)
413 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Cochran, Thad – (R – MS)
113 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Heller, Dean – (R – NV)
324 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Coburn, Tom – (R – OK)
172 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Portman, Rob – (R – OH)
448 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Alexander, Lamar – (R – TN)
455 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Ayotte, Kelly – (R – NH)
144 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Republicans voters support reform. Perhaps you’re one of them. While some Republican members of Congress stand with their constituency on this issue, many seem better schooled in excuses for why addressing the problem should not be attempted. A common narrative is that NOTHING will work. Without ANY political leadership, they have a point (albeit a circular one). Another argument is that we should wiggle and squiggle a partial fix into place. Some of these ideas are remarkable good, but without an amendment to the constitution, new campaign reforms may be undermined with the next court case. Stranger things have (already) happened. WE MUST BOTH AMEND AND REFORM.
It’s okay to call on Monday. We want a Thunderclap of activity to hit senate offices on the 8th. Join the Thunderclap: http://bit.ly/1tOvyY0
Trans-partisan Opposition to Citizens United
Everyone needs to understand that ALL other issues are being held hostage this issue, BY BIG MONEY. Good governance is nearly impossible. Voters have no confidence that their voices can be heard over the media volume of big money flooding elections at every level. Each Senator needs to stand up and be counted on the right side of this issue and of history. And all of our congress people need to stand with ordinary citizens, not with big money, to ensure a functioning democracy and free speech for ALL.
S.J.Res.19 and H.J.Res 119 (full text):
If you live in New Jersey,
SIGN OURPETITION supporting SJR19 to amend the constitution: http://tinyurl.com/m9856ow
WHEVER YOU LIVE
Several national groups have started new SJR-19-specific petitions. We suggest you sign any and all. Here’s one at CREDO Action:
The Daily Kos gives some background on its petition and that of other groups as well, showing that several groups are working together.
Here’s the Daily Kos petition.
Susannah Newman contributed significantly to this article.
Okay – the quick and easy version of this blog.
We’ve got info from New Jersey candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives about their views on money in politics and amending the constitution to save the Republic.
…or even quicker and easier, See the Summary
And now for the detailed version of this blog, in which we brag about how much work this was and how cool we are to have taken it all on!
NJOCU recently contacted candidates for the House of Representatives in the state of New Jersey. We asked for the candidate’s views on money in politics as well as the candidate’s strategy, if any, for fixing the problem. Formed in the wake of Citizens Untied, NJOCU has always seen a constitution amendment to overturn at least portions of that decision as necessary. For us, without an amendment, campaign finance regulation, lobbying reform, closing the revolving door, safeguards against cronyism, and a government of, by and for the people will always be under threat from politics and the courts. There’s just too much evidence that the lure or possession of power will draw out the exploiters and the misguided.
We attempted to reach all the candidates; six were un-findable. We sent them background information on the issue and an “Ask.” We pointed out that the NJOCU coalition represents 27 statewide business associations and community and political organizations, and over 17,000 New Jersey petition signers determined to get big money out of politics. NJOCU successfully spearheaded the passage of amendment resolutions in 13 NJ municipalities along with resolutions on both sides of the NJ legislature. In other words, the New Jersey Legislature has already asked Congress for an amendment.
We asked each candidate for an endorsement of a constitutional amendment (by bill number if possible) or at least some legislative alternative that the candidate preferred. If they didn’t see a solution or the need for a solution, then we respectfully asked them to explain that position.
We had to treat a non-response to our Ask as a non-endorsement of the amendment campaign and indeed of any other approach to fixing the problem of money’s corrupting influence over democracy. How much we were able to offer our own knowledge of this far reaching topic to candidates, who are undoubtedly considering many issues right now, depended mostly on the availability and responsiveness of the candidate. We are 100% volunteer-based so we could only reach out as far as the schedule and our resources allowed.
Our volunteers did attend in-person meetings with some candidates (our thanks to the candidates as well). We also offered dialog over the phone and by email. We made a real effort to show the candidates other solutions when they weren’t sure about the amendment idea. In many cases we showed them the American Anti-Corruption Act (AACA) and the Government By The People Act (GBTP). And finally we offered, upon request, the roughly 17,000 signed petitions in paper or PDF form. Or if they wished, we showed them petition signers from only their relevant district.
Every candidate was shown What’s Wrong with Money in Politics, three examples of amendment bills now in Congress, the list of states requesting an amendment proposal from Congress and the formal Ask document. Beyond that, the background information varied according to what feedback the candidate provided to us. Here’s an example of our Pitch.
What’s Wrong with Money in Politics is a list of effects that spring reliably from the moneyed approach to political campaigning and the effects of money aggregators like unions and lobbyists. Note that the effects of money are counter-productive for both sides of the political spectrum.
Outside Spending, Outsized Influence (PDF) shows a who’s who of outside interests trying to manipulate New Jersey congressional races. It’s immaterial which side they each represent, because in any election the most influential side can change, depending on which interest groups decide to meddle and for what objectives. Nor is the problem limited to national politics. Indeed, it may prove more significant at the state level, where local money is insufficient to turn back big outside moneyed interests who descend on state legislative races. First we saw an outside group sue the state for having campaign finance laws. Super PAC sues N.J. over contribution limits. Then we all watched the money flow in from outside. As the legal suit demonstrated, New Jersey as a state is forbidden by federal courts from truly regulating its own elections.
The Supreme Court has codified much of the problem by declaring that the expenditure of money is a form of free speech. We believe that the right to speak one’s true convictions and the privilege of amplifying one’s own views to a level that drowns out all others are two very different things. The court has also codified the idea that legal fictions, organizations and money aggregators can uniformly claim the same rights as that of a natural person and citizen. There is already evidence of foreign nationals using their affiliations to inject money into election campaigns in the USA. There are numerous other pitfalls to the concept. In the Citizens United case, the court also settled into the view that election and lobbying laws can only address explicit quid pro corruption. This is not merely wrong, but absurdly unrealistic. If white collar crime were held to this standard, using a method that didn’t succeed 100% of the time would form a valid defense.
But it gets worse. Recently the court declared it legal for one donor to give millions of dollars spread over the entire Congress or perhaps more likely over one party. The court rejected precedent which held that the appearance of corruption IS corruption. Handing over money to every congress person on a collection of key committees definitely looks like the purchase of influence. Many voters in our democracy, upon seeing this, deeply question the system’s integrity. But the court says it’s legal. Thus the problem worsens even as many are trying to fix it. For all of these reasons and several lesser concerns, NJOCU and many groups support at least one constitutional amendment to deal with the corrupting influence of money in politics.
In the 113th session of Congress there are two legislative strategies for amending the constitution. Under the first of these strategies, two bills each propose one of two needed amendments. One of the two amendments clarifies that persons and people in the constitution refer to actual persons and people, not artificial legal constructs. The other amendment asserts the responsibility and authority of the people’s government to regulate campaign finance. The second strategy combines both of these provisions into one bill that proposes one amendment. As such, these two strategies represent three bills on each side of the congress, i.e. in the House and the Senate, or six bills total. These two strategies have the greatest support in Congress (the most sponsors and co-sponsors). For this reason these bills are explicitly mentioned in the NJOCU “Ask.” We believe in a vigorous debate on how to best amend the constitution, but these bills form a good starting point. There are other amendment proposals. United 4 the People provides a complete list.
The New Jersey State legislature in 2012 passed AR86 and SR47 asking Congress for a constitutional amendment to deal with this problem. 15 other states have done similarly and within New Jersey 13 municipalities have joined the chorus. The current list of local and state entities that have passed such resolutions.
There are also legislative steps that might be taken without a constitutional amendment. The two most notable are the American Anti-Corruption Act (PDF) and the Government By the People Act (PDF). The AACA directly regulates lobbying and revolving door practices and funds elections with vouchers. The GBTP Act allocates public campaign funds that are so substantial that outside moneyed interests are disincentivized from competing. The formula is still based on citizen support and does not level the playing field artificially. Both bills have been vetted as constitutional even by current standards.
87% of ordinary people are angry at all the big money coming into our elections. NJOCU, like so many Americans, wants the SCOTUS decisions that are responsible for this deluge of money overturned. But even after amending the constitution, the working solution will be implemented as a law. With an amendment, the law will be simpler and more effective, but it will still be a law. NJOCU therefore supports the best laws we can possibly implement as soon as is possible, both before and after an amendment is passed.
At least 2/3 of nearly every identifiable political group in America is opposed to the corrupting influence of money in politics including such diverse groups as the Tea Party and MoveOn.org. Republicans and Democrats both poll in opposition to the increasingly influence of money over policy. Small business owners are one of the most concerned at 90%. A recent Gallop poll showed that when money in politics was included among options it polled as the country’s second most important issue behind jobs. It’s time to start talking, thinking and acting on this long endured distorting influence over our democracy.
Yesterday, April 2nd, 2014 – the Supreme Court delivered its ruling in McCutcheon v FEC striking down aggregate limits on campaign donations. Without aggregate limits, any person with enough money may give the maximum allowable donation to every single candidate for office in Congress. Or to every single member in a particular party. Or to every single member of a specific committee or combination of committees. By one account a person could invest $3.5 million into Congress every election cycle. A married couple, double that. The majority’s contention is that none of this could possible make Congress consider the donor’s interests before and above that of other citizens.
Susannah Newman, Coordinator for the NJOCU Coalition had this to say:
“The McCutcheon ruling, on top of the Citizens United ruling, clearly shows that the Court’s majority believes in the rights of the wealthy minority (which includes each of them) over the rest of us. Fair elections are now history. It is obvious, now more than ever, that a Constitutional Amendment is necessary; that people MUST rise up and reclaim their democracy. No congressional candidate should be voted into office this November without going on the record vociferously in support of a Constitutional Amendment to overturn both the Citizens United and the McCutcheon rulings.”
Lawrence Lessig on McCutcheon
Why McCutcheon decision is scarier than Citizens United (Salon)
Sen. John McCain blasts the Supreme Court’s decision (Business Insider)
Chief Justice Roberts says corruption is no worse than flag burning (Fox News)
“Probably eventually anonymously” (VIDEO – HuffPost)
Blistering Dissent (TPM)
What you need to know (TYT)
The Decision (written opinions of Justices)
The Takeway: Built into this decision is the notion that money is speech and that more money is more speech. Buckley v Valeo, which established the money/speech connection in 1976, did not hold that donations were speech, so this is a significant rejection of precedence. Meanwhile, it’s very hard to understand how amplifying the speech of a small group of people creates more speech in any case. What the ruling instead proves is that somehow, some way, the American citizenry must demand a constitutional amendment that gracefully allows for campaign finance law. At NJOCU, while we remain convinced that a purely legislative approach (such as the AACA or Government By the People Act) could significantly improve our democracy, the McCutcheon decision reminds us that the amendment solution must be pressed forward with vigor. Reclaim the People’s Constitution.
Just a reminder that this weekend is the first ever national demonstration against the corrupting influence of money in politics. The March Against Corruption is happening on Saturday, November 2nd , in cities all across America (and even internationally).
If this is the first you’ve heard about this march, be sure to watch this video.
In the New Jersey region there are Marches planned in NYC, Philadelphia, Allentown, PA and Wilmington, DE.
Starting at 12:00 noon
Saturday, November 2nd, 2013
In New York City the event starts in Zuccotti Park at 12:00 noon.
In Philadelphia the event starts at 12:00 noon in the Independence Mall at the corner of 5th Street and Market Street (Liberty Bell park lawn). The march concludes at City Hall.
Worldwide Web March Against Corruption
Going to the event – you can contact Mark Doenges at 856-906-4447
For an explanation of the underlying problems:
With Maine on Tuesday, April 30th, the number of states calling for a constitutional amendment rises to 13. West Virginia was another recent victory. Montana appears below having passed a voter initiative at the time of the 2012 election. Here’s the current complete list.
Sites with stories: