Overturn Citizen's United

 U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders introduced an amendment to the Constitution “expressly to exclude for-profit corporations from the rights given to natural persons…prohibit corporate spending in all elections, and affirm the authority of Congress and the States to regulate corporations and to regulate and set limits on all election contributions and expenditures.”

The Problem

•Concealed identities of campaign contributors.  Under the Citizens United ruling, non-profits able to engage in election activities do not have to disclose large political donors under most circumstances.  This has led to the creation of so-called “Super PACs” that do not need to abide by the $2,500 limit on campaign contributions.

•Corporations and the super-rich are allowed to have too much influence in politics.  In 2010, ads for the House, Senate, and Governor’s races added up to 2,870,000.  This was a 250% increase over 2002, when the same arrangement of races occurred.  Even just comparing to 2008, TV ad spending was up to 54% for the House and 71% for the Senate.

Why Pass it

•We are gaining momentum.  On December 30, the Montana supreme courted upheld their hundred year old ban on corporate spending in state elections.  This is the first direct legal challenge to Citizens United.

•Mainers oppose the Citizens United decision.  According to a March 2012 poll by the Maine People’s Resource Center, 64.1% of Mainers oppose that ruling by the Supreme Court.  Only 27.2% support it, with 8.7% undecided.

•Even the Supreme Court has since recognized the corrosive influence of money in elections.  In Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., the court ordered a West Virginia Supreme Court judge to step down when dealing with cases from a litigant that was a major campaign supporter.

Answers to Common Objections

•Prominent former ACLU attorneys support the overturning of Citizens United.  Burt Neuborne, national director of the ACLU legal staff from 1981 to 1986, joined other prominent former ACLU leaders like Norman Dorsen, Aryeh Neier, John Shattuck, and Mort Halperin, in arguing before the Supreme Court that campaign spending is not “pure” speech.  You can read Neuborne’s essay online.

•The Supreme Court has previously used the identity of a speaker to deny free speech protection.  In Bluman vs. FEC, the court ruled upheld a Congressional ban on electoral spending by lawful resident aliens.  This flatly contradicts Justice Kennedy’s argument in Citizens United that First Amendment protections do not depend on a speakers identity—in other words, that it does not matter if the speaker is a corporation. 

Links to more information

•Sanders Amendment: http://www.sanders.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Saving-American-Democracy.pdf

•Justice Stevens dissenting opinion to the Citizen’s United ruling: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/08-205.ZX.html

•The Supreme Court’s ruling in Hale v. Henkel in which corporations were denied fifth amendment rights precisely because they were not natural human beings: http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=16698831680912596774&hl=en&a...