2 Million Signatures; California Wants Citizens United Reversed

Update: August 1. 

Massachusetts passed a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment that reverses Citizens United. It is the seventh state to do so, joining California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Vermont, Rhode Island and Maryland.

California Joins the Call

On July 6, California became the largest state to pass a resolution to overturn Citizens United. Hawaii, New Mexico and Vermont also passed state resolutions.

The state Senate voted 24-11 to approve Assembly Joint Resolution 22, which calls for restoration of campaign finance laws that eliminate unlimited corporate and private money in US election campaigns.

In the past month, Philadelphia, PA and Raleigh, NC joined 300 cities and towns that are calling for a constitutional amendment. A resolution has also been introduced in Chicago.

They are joined by 100 organizations representing 10 million members and over 1800 public officials.

July 26

This week, almost 2 million (1,959,063) signatures were delivered to the Senate, calling for Congress to overturn Citizens United and related cases by amending the Constitution.

The petitions were delivered in connection with hearings held by the Constitution Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee to examine the impact of Citizens United, Speech Now and related cases and the need for constitutional remedies to restore democratic elections in the US.

Several Democratic Senators have introduced legislation to overturn Citizens United and the 78 member Congressional Progressive Caucus voted unanimously in support of a constitutional amendment.

"All over the country, our voices are being drowned out by the powerful corporations and the super wealthy. Short of changing who sits on the Supreme Court, amending the Constitution is the only way to undo the damage done to our democracy by Citizens United," says Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way.

"While billionaires are openly writing million-dollar checks to Super PACs, millions more is being secretly funneled to front groups whose ads may affect who wins and wields power over people and policy. Deceptively named nonprofit groups are becoming the Swiss bank accounts of elections, receiving secret multi-million dollar gifts that buy ads to influence how Americans vote. We may never know the true identity of those attempting to buy our elections through such shadowy groups — whether they are corporations or people, domestic or foreign — but we do know American democracy is increasingly for sale and that’s why We the People are demanding that the Constitution be amended to fight this corruption," says Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy/ ALECexposed.org.

Disclose Act

The Disclose Act (S. 3369), sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), would have required companies and unions to file a disclosure report for donations at or above $10,000.

The Senate failed to pass the Disclose Act because it was filibustered by Republicans (they have filibustered almost every bill since Obama was elected), requiring 60 votes to pass. Republicans voted unanimously against the bill, which ended in a 51-44 vote. 

Without the filibuster the bill would have passed with a simple majority. 

In a rare move, Senate Democrats held a debate lasting until after midnight to protest Senate Republicans’ opposition to the legislation.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) cited examples of how groups are trying to influence elections, without giving voters any way to find out who is behind the message.

"I rise… because the corporations involved and the investors are flooding our elections with campaign money," he said. "We don’t know who the money’s from. We can guess. In my state, we think it’s from oil companies, we think it’s Wall Street banks, we think it could be money from Chinese interests."

President Obama does have the power to issue an executive order requiring all companies that get public funds – such as contracts with government entities – disclose who they are donating to, including nonprofits like the US Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity.  

ALEC Loses More Members

Meanwhile, one of those leading shadowy groups, ALEC, which is behind a raft of right-wing laws such as voter suppression and preventing efforts to address climate change, continues to lose corporate members

30 businesses have left in the past months – the most recent being General Motors, Walgreens, CVS, Deere & Co., MillerCoors, Best Buy, Hewlett-Packard, Amazon.com and pharmacy benefits manager Express-Scripts.

On the environmental side, ALEC is currently working on dismantling state Renewable Portfolio Standards, pressuring the EPA to designate palm oil as a renewable fuel, pushing for loopholes in disclosure of natural gas fracking chemicals, and killing regional climate cap-and-trade pacts, along with eliminating clean air and water regulations.

It’s pretty amazing to see the list of major corporations that have been supporting ALEC for all these years.

In the video below, Pulitzer-prize winning cartoonist, Mark Fiore, shines a light on how a bill becomes law ALEC-style. His first video on ALEC was about NRA’s Stand Your Ground gun legislation, which ALEC helped pass in over two dozen states.

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