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Activists ask for legislative support; the push to counter Citizens United

By Fritz Mayer
June 27, 2012

The bar to pass a constitutional amendment in the United States is very high; the amendment must be approved by a two-thirds majority in the House and the Senate, and must be adopted by 38 of the 50 states.

There is a movement to pass a constitutional amendment to counter the impacts of the 2010 Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, which allows corporations to spend nearly unlimited amounts of money to influence the outcomes of national and local elections.

The movement put in an appearance at the Sullivan County Legislature on June 21 in the form of about seven members of MoveOn Sullivan County, who appeared in order to ask county legislators to pass a resolution in support of the amendment.

A draft resolution presented to the board specified that “a corporation is not a person and can be regulated, and money is not speech and can be regulated,” two legal constructs that run counter to the way the courts have interpreted law in the United States.

Several members of MoveOn spoke. Kathy Aberman said, “James Bopp, the lawyer who represented Citizens United in the Supreme Court case, was breathtakingly candid in his discussion of money in politics when Terry Gross interviewed him on the radio program Fresh Air late last winter. When Terry asked him if he thought there was too much money in politics, this is what he said: ‘No, individual contribution limits are way too low. You can’t even buy a Democrat congressman for $2,500. It takes $99,000 in cold hard cash to buy a Democrat.’ He added that the lowest amount to buy a Republican was about $140,000.”

Mary Ann Burke read a statement from Padma Dyvine, saying, “In January 2010, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Steven said, ‘Corporations have no consciences, beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their personhood often serves as a useful legal fiction, but they are not themselves members of we the people, by whom and for whom our constitution was established.’”

Robert Dorn said, “Van Jones says in his book “Rebuild the Dream” that more than 90 percent of the time, the candidate who spends the most money on his or her campaign winds up the winner.” Jones also said, “Incumbents in the House need to raise roughly $10,000 each week, beginning the day they are elected. How can we possibly think that anyone is paying attention to their constituents and the people when they constantly have to raise cash from the day they are elected?”

Supreme Court doubles down on Citizens United

WASHINGTON, DC — There was a case of corruption so blatant in 1898 in Montana that the U.S. Senate refused to seat the senator from Montana because it was assumed he had bribed his way into office. He was one of the Copper Kings who had great influence in the state at the time and, because of that history, the Montana high court said its ban on corporate political spending was justified.

No it’s not, said the high court of the United States. In a five-to-four decision handed down on June 25, the U.S. Supreme Court said that Montana, like every other state in the Union, must follow the dictates of the Citizens United decision, which allows nearly unlimited corporate spending to influence the outcomes of political races. In the original decision in 2010, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote that such freewheeling political expenditures “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

Justice Stephen Breyer, who opposed Citizen’s United, wrote of the Montana decision, “Even if I were to accept Citizens United, this court’s legal conclusion should not bar the Montana Supreme Court’s finding, made on the record before it, that independent expenditures by corporations did in fact lead to corruption or the appearance of corruption in Montana.
Given the history and political landscape in Montana, that court concluded that the state had a compelling interest in limiting independent expenditures by corporations.”