We the People. Those are the simple words that begin the preamble to the United States Constitution. This is the basis for the representative democracy in which we live and for the basic principles that the people would choose their representatives and would have a voice in governing.
Unfortunately, these principles that have guided our country for generations are being trampled by the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC. This decision opened the floodgates to unlimited spending by corporate, union and others special interests in our elections, drowning out the voices of the people and stacking the deck in favor of corporations and the richest 1 percent.
The result is the flooding of our airwaves, mailboxes and answering machines with mostly negative attacks by dark money groups that are more interested in pushing a hidden agenda than they are in what’s best for our nation. It’s gotten to the point where even the candidates themselves are being drowned out to the point they have little to no control over their campaigns or message.
To fix the problem we’ve introduced a resolution calling for a statewide advisory referendum to give voters the opportunity to voice their support for a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United.
Since the 2010 ruling that ushered in a new era of unlimited corporate spending on elections, 105 communities across the state of Wisconsin have joined 18 states and 730 municipalities nationwide passing referendums or resolutions calling for action to overturn Citizens United. In every Wisconsin community that has held a referendum, voters have overwhelmingly voted in favor of overturning Citizens United. The referendums have passed overwhelmingly with between 61 percent and 91 percent in each community voting in favor. It is clear that voters are fed up with big money corrupting our political system.
During the last legislative session, we introduced joint resolutions in the Senate and Assembly that would have placed a statewide advisory referendum on the ballot, allowing Wisconsinites to vote on whether they want Congress to pass a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United. The Assembly version was the only bill referred to the Committee on Constitution and Ethics, but the Republican committee chair refused to even hold a public hearing on the bill, and the committee did not meet even once during the entire two-year legislative session. Senate Republicans refused to even hold a hearing, as well.
Democrats are fighting for a level playing field where every Wisconsinite’s vote counts and their voice is heard just as clearly and just as loudly regardless of how much money they make or how much they are able to contribute to a candidate’s campaign.
Meanwhile, when big money talks the Republicans listen, but their constituents’ pleas to fix our broken system fall on deaf ears.
The influx of corporate spending has left us with a broken and fundamentally unfair political system. Billionaires and corporations buy influence through their election spending, resulting in policies that favor corporations and the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.
Now is the time to end this dangerous trend of selling our government to the highest bidder. In the post-Citizens United era, public distrust in elected officials is at an all-time high. It is time to get big money out of politics, and the first step is to let the people’s voices be heard on overturning Citizens United.
Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, and Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, are members of the Wisconsin Legislature.
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