The following was originally released by Public Citizen
Our path to a more just world starts where we are. Changing the world means changing our own government. But our democracy just suffered a devastating setback. On January 21, the Supreme Court-in a case called Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission-overturned decades of precedent and ruled that First Amendment rights meant to protect the free speech of people somehow allow corporations to spend as much they want attacking or promoting candidates in our elections.
Multinational corporations-already too greedy, too selfish, too powerful-can now spend without limit to influence and possibly even corrupt our political processes. From your city council on up to President of the United States, our government is for sale.
Fixing this decision will require a constitutional amendment. Join the call for a constitutional amendment establishing that corporations do not have a right to buy our elections.
Of course, money from ExxonMobil, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer and the rest of the Fortune 500 is already corroding the policy making process in Washington, state capitals and city halls. What is new is that the Supreme Court has told these corporate giants that they have a constitutional right to trample our democracy.
In eviscerating longstanding rules prohibiting corporations from using their own monies to influence elections, the court has invited giant corporations to open up their treasuries to buy election outcomes. Corporations are sure to accept the invitation.
The predictable result will be corporate money flooding the election process; huge targeted campaigns by corporations and their front groups attacking principled candidates who challenge parochial corporate interests; and a chilling effect on candidates and election officials, who will be deterred from advocating and implementing policies that advance the public interest but injure deep-pocket corporations.
There are ways to mitigate the harm of the Supreme Court’s decision through legislation, like a rule specifying that government contractors cannot spend money to influence election outcomes. And public financing of elections would give independent candidates a base from which they may be able to compete against candidates benefiting from corporate expenditures. At Public Citizen, we are working on these proposals, and we invite you to join us.
But these measures will not be enough to offset the Supreme Court’s decision. The decision itself must be overturned, and it will require a constitutional amendment to do so.
Democracy is rule of the people-real, live humans, not artificial-entity corporations. Our Constitution and the First Amendment should-and were intended to-protect the rights of real people, not corporations. Now it’s time for the people to reassert their rights.
For a just future,
President, Public Citizen