Activist groups announced Monday that more than 100,000 signatures had been collected for a Colorado ballot measure calling for the controversial Citizens United ruling to be overturned.
“Unlimited corporate money in elections has only recently flooded American politics, but this initiative is part of a long history of citizens making their voices heard,” said Mo Kirk, President of Colorado Fair Share. “We spoke face to face with hundreds of thousands of Coloradans all across the state. These signatures represent their will to put our democracy back into the hands of citizens.”
The nearly 177,000 signatures in support of the ballot measure is well over the 86,105 valid signatures needed to qualify for the Colorado ballot this November. Colorado Fair Share and CoPIRG (Colorado Public Interest Research Group) lead the signature gathering effort. Other supporters included Colorado Common Cause, Free Speech for People, Colorado Progressive Coalition, CleanSlateNow.org, Colorado 350.org, People for the American Way, Public Citizen, Communications Workers of America, and the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.
The ballot measure, Initiative 82 (PDF), would urge Colorado’s congressional delegation to support an amendment to the U.S. constitution that allows Congress to limit outside campaign spending. The ballot measure says the amendment is necessary to “ensure that all citizens, regardless of wealth, can express their views to one another and their government on a level playing field.”
“Our elected officials are supposed to serve the voters, not the highest bidder,” Aquene Freechild, the senior organizer of Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign, said in a statement. “Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections, Super PACs and other independent groups have spent huge amounts, in some cases outspending individual campaigns by a ratio of 2-to-1.”
The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United held that limits on independent political contributions by corporations and unions violated the First Amendment, because political donations were a form of political speech. The ruling paved the way for Super PACs, which can receive unlimited sums of money to influence elections. A constitutional amendment is the only way to override the ruling.
“Citizens United-enabled outside group spending, much of it secret, is devoted overwhelmingly to negative attack ads,” Freechild added. “The funds come from a very small cluster of people; a recent report found that just 47 people, each giving at least $1 million to Super PACs, accounted for more than 57 percent of the money raised by Super PACs during this current election cycle.”
Last week, Massachusetts became the seventh state to pass a symbolic resolution condemning the Citizens United ruling. Massachusetts joined California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Vermont, Rhode Island and Maryland in calling for a constitutional amendment. More than 280 cities, most recently Chicago, have approved similar resolutions.
[Voter casts a ballot via Shutterstock]
[Ed. note: The initial version of this piece omitted mention of Public Citizen’s coalition partners.]