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Plain Talk: What citizens can do to fight Citizens United

Plain Talk: What citizens can do to fight Citizens United

  • Updated
Supreme Court Campaign Finance
The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington.

One of the most asked questions in my email inbox is what can the people do to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision that declared corporations people and opened the floodgates to unlimited campaign spending.

The only answer, of course, is an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would require passage by two-thirds of both houses of Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the states, a process that would face extremely tough sledding in today’s toxic political environment. (Can you imagine the U.S. Senate filibustering over this one?)

But the national citizens’ lobby and nonpartisan government watchdog, Common Cause, believes that the politicians will pay heed if enough American people make it clear they want this abominable and reckless decision overturned.

Citizens United has been blamed for the historic spending by corporations and other special interests in the current Republican presidential primaries, with predictions that spending will escalate come the general election this fall. It was the decision about which Justice Samuel Alito mouthed “not true” in response to President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union prediction that this would happen. It turns out that it was Alito who didn’t know what he was talking about.

In an attempt to underscore just how upset Americans are with the Supreme Court decision, Common Cause has launched a 50-state drive to give voters a voice to push back.

“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,” remarked Robert Reich, chairman of Common Cause’s National Governing Board. “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.”

What Common Cause plans to do is to get every state to include a question on its November ballot that would instruct Congress to adopt a constitutional amendment to make it clear that corporations are not people and to authorize campaign spending limits.

“Most Americans are appalled by how big corporations and other special interests have hijacked our government and drowned out our voices by pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns from the courthouse to the White House,” Reich added. “It’s time to restore common sense to our elections and democracy.”

Here in Wisconsin, Common Cause director Jay Heck said that the state group will definitely take part in the national effort and push to place a statewide advisory referendum on the ballot. Common Cause-Wisconsin was to meet this week to decide the strategy on how to get it done.

If Common Cause can get enough states to take part, the message it sends to Congress could be enormous. And that’s exactly what’s needed before our democratic system gets completely hijacked by the special interests that already control all too much of our government.