Those whove been experiencing the sweltering 100-degree days in Washington, D.C., this summer might attribute the heat to D.C.s swampy nature, or even to climate change. But its entirely possible that its the unchecked campaign spending like this by corporations and the 1 percent that were seeing this election season that is making peoples temperatures rise, if not making their blood boil.
Its a campaign that is ablaze with grassroots energy, as last Tuesdays hearing demonstrated.
At the hearing, Public Citizen and its allies presented 1.98 million petition signatures calling for an amendment. The signatures were collected by a wide range of groups from people in every state. The movement for a constitutional amendment has built remarkable momentum, with the passage of resolutions calling for an amendment in 288 cities, towns and localities, and seven state legislatures. It has gained the support of at least 119 members of Congress.
His conclusion is that Citizens United tells billionaires that in addition to owning the economy, they now have the opportunity to own the government for a very small percentage of their wealth. Why should we be surprised, he asked, when one family [the Koch Brothers] worth $50 billion is prepared to spe... in this election to protect their interests? That is a small investment for them. He closed by saying that the future of American democracy is at stake, and that is why he supports a constitutional amendment.
Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, caused a stir among the senators during his testimony when he suggested that the best way to deal with the corruption and monopolization of political speech in America is to shrink the government. Shrink government and youll shrink the amount people are willing to spend trying to get their piece of the pie.
Shapiros logic is circular at best: to deal with the corrupting influence of campaign money from the one percent, shrink the government? Doing so would reduce governments ability to oversee potentially corrupt practicessuch as campaign finance and campaign contributions. Nice how that works, right?
According to Shapiro, organizations such as Public Citizen really want less speech and government control over who speaks and how much.
Lets be clear: Our goal is to protect political speech of living, breathing human beings not corporations and our rights to be heard and be the primary actors in our democracy. Limits on this type of election campaign spending are well-founded in this countrys jurisprudence and have only recently been swept into the dustbin by two reckless Supreme Court decisionsthat seem not only to have disregarded overwhelming evidence of dependency on wealthy funders that promotes corruption, but the America people as well.
We think democracy works best when all peoples voices count, and that letting the wealthy drown out these voices with billions in paid speech isnt free speech at all but speech that will cost us far too much.
Thats why were working toward a constitutional amendment to get corporate and wealthy individual money out of our elections and rein in corporate power. We are working to restore democracy. We are working to give the voice back to the people. And that movement is growing. Join us at Democracy Is For People and help us make sure that this first Senate hearing on a constitutional amendment to take back our democracy isnt the last.
Neil Heckman, intern for Public Citizen's Democracy Is For People Campaign. Sign the petition and join the fight to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizen United.