Massachusetts activists push to end corporate political spending
A coalition of lawmakers, advocates and activists rallied at the Massachusetts Statehouse on Tuesday to support a resolution that calls on Congress to overturn the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
The People’s Rights Resolution was introduced to the Massachusetts legislature by state Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D) and state Rep. Cory Atkins (D). The resolution calls upon the U.S. Congress to “pass and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to restore the First Amendment and fair elections to the people.”
In the Citizens United ruling, the Supreme Court held that First Amendment prohibited the government from placing limits on for-profit and not-for-profit corporations’ independent political spending.
The 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.
“In two short years, the Citizens United decision has upended our election system, with serious consequences for the health of our democracy,” Eldridge said. “The voices of ordinary Americans are being drowned out by the tens of millions of dollars that are being poured into attack ads paid for by corporate donors. The problem is real, and we owe it to the citizens of the Commonwealth to do what we can, as a legislature, to stop this.”
Earlier this month, the New Mexico legislature approved similar resolution. Other states across the country, including California, Vermont, 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, Priorities USA Action, he has pledged to support such an amendment.
Money in politics photo via Shuttershock