Real Citizens Against “Citizens United”

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By: Colan Holmes & Marya Burke

Voters have amplified the chants and signs of street protesters with the power of their pens. Seventy-two percent of the electorate in both Champaign and Urbana townships filled in the bubble to approve the referendum calling for overturning Citizens United and corporate “personhood.”

Here’s a recap of just what we passed:

The U.S. Supreme Court held, in ‘Citizens United v. FEC’, that corporations have the rights of real human citizens and are entitled to spend unlimited amounts of money in support of political campaigns. To undo that decision, the people of the City of Champaign Township/Cunningham Township support an Amendment to the United States Constitution to establish that:

1. A corporation does not have the same rights as an actual person, and

2. Money is not speech and, therefore, regulating political spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.

We further request that our city, state and federal representatives enact resolutions and legislation to advance the two positions proposed as part of the Amendment, with reference to the need for an Amendment.

To turn up the volume, we can push further, pressing our City Councils, County, and state level government to enact similar referenda. We would be in good company. There is a growing trend in our state and across the country. Many groups, including Move To Amend, which Occupy CU affiliated with, are pushing for government at all levels to reject the personhood of corporations. This past summer, the Chicago City Council passed its own resolution against Citizens United. Colorado and Montana passed statewide initiatives supported by over 70% of their respective voters calling for a reconsideration of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Nationally, 11 states have passed similar resolutions including: the California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Vermont legislatures. Legislators in Connecticut and Maryland sent formal requests to Congress calling for a constitutional amendment.

Even without such an amendment, I see signs for hope. Despite the millions upon millions of dollars spent by Super PACS and various shades of funders (from Adelson to Rove, to “Dark” sources), their successes were somewhat ambiguous. Many of the candidates who were direct or indirect recipients failed to win their seats. Arguably, the public may well have resented and rejected the efforts of big money to bully its way into the Whitehouse and Congress. If nothing else, there was surely more light shed on the dealings than big donors would have wished. Further, corporations were banned from donating to PACs, which is no longer the case.

One thing seems clear, this powerful threat to democracy is answered, in part, by our choice to employ democracy.

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