Vermont towns to vote on challenging Citizens United ruling
Residents of Vermont during Tuesday’s Town Meeting Day in will vote on initiatives calling for legislation to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
“People are starting to put the pieces together; they’re all doing it all at the same time, all across the country,” Bill Butler, who helped write the proposal, told the Associated Press.
“You start putting these together, I think you have the beginning of the most dynamic political movement in this country. It’s because people are realizing they have to do it and they have to do it now.”
The initiatives in nearly 50 towns across the state call on Vermont legislators and the state’s congressional delegation to overturn the controversial ruling, which prohibited the government from placing limits on corporations’ independent political spending.
“Vermonters are taking a lead in the growing movement for a constitutional amendment to limit the influence of big money and corporations in our democracy,” said Aquene Freechild, senior organizer with Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People campaign.
The Citizens United ruling gave rise to super PACS, officially known as independent-expenditure only committees, which can raise an unlimited amount of money to influence federal elections as long as they do not directly coordinate with a candidate’s campaign.
Super PACs have quickly outpaced old-fashioned PACs, which can only accept annual donations of $5,000 or less and give a maximum of $5,000 per election to candidates, allowing campaign spending by outside groups to skyrocket. Super PACs have also exploited a loophole that allows them to postpone the disclosure of their donors until after the elections they participate in.
Two towns in Vermont, Thetford and Woodstock, have already voted on the issue. Both approved it.
In February, the New Mexico legislature approved a resolution that called on the U.S. Congress to overturn the ruling. Other states across the country, including California, Massachusetts, Washington and Maryland are advancing resolutions of their own.
A number of Democratic senators have backed a constitutional amendment that would grant Congress and the states the authority to regulate the campaign finance system, effectively overturning the Citizens United ruling. But the proposed amendment has little chance of passing without support from Republicans.
Even though Obama recently welcomed the support of his own super PAC, he has pledged to support such an amendment.
Money in politics photo via Shutterstock