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State

A call for Susan Collins to step up on S.J. Res. 19
By Citizen.org
Aug 13, 2014 - 12:10:37 AM

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The following was received from http://www.citizen.org and is being published as a public service. Only one of the many links in the original email has been reproduced here. R.P. BenDedek Email: rpbendedek@hotmail.com


On Sept. 8, the U.S. Senate will vote on S.J. Res. 19, which calls for a constitutional amendment to reestablish the authority of Congress and the states to regulate and limit campaign spending.

The amendment, authored by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) to rein in out-of-control campaign spending, reflects a national movement to restore elections to the people -- a movement that has grown rapidly in the wake of two disastrous U.S. Supreme Court rulings. The amendment currently has 50 Senate supporters, but U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has not added her name to the list of co-sponsors.

Recently, Maine has seen a flood of money into its elections. In 2012, more than $7 million in outside spending poured into Maine's U.S. Senate race. Of the $7 million from outside groups, more than half came from "dark" money groups -- groups that disclose none or only some of their donors. And 2012 was the first year in Maine's history in which independent expenditures outpaced spending by candidates' campaigns and political parties. Experts predict that in 2014, the gap will be even larger. With so much money flowing into Maine, voters are left to wonder if the candidates will keep their best interests in mind or sell out to the highest bidder.

Americans across the board -- no matter which political party they identify with -- know that Big Money in politics is corrosive to democracy. A recent poll found that 73 percent of Americans want Citizen United overturned -- underscoring the fact that concern about the dominance of elections by corporations and the wealthy is overwhelmingly bipartisan.

Sixteen states, approximately 550 cities and towns, and more than 160 former and current members of Congress have indicated support for an amendment. So has President Barack Obama.

We urge you to call on Collins to add her name as a co-sponsor and vote for a constitutional amendment to curb campaign spending.

What the Udall amendment would do

A constitutional amendment would undo nearly 40 years of restrictive U.S. Supreme Court rulings. It would overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) and its misguided holding that corporations have the same First Amendment rights as real, live, breathing human beings to influence election outcomes. It would overturn McCutcheon v. FEC, with its holding that the only justification for limits on campaign donations is to prevent criminal bribery. And it would overturn Buckley v. Valeo -- the case holding that "money equals speech."

The amendment would enable the government to pass laws ending corporate spending on elections, eliminating or curbing outside donations, imposing limits on overall election spending and adopting robust systems of small donor and public financing.

In this manner, it would restore common sense to our election spending jurisprudence and help restore the most basic understanding of democracy: that the people -- not the corporations, not the plutocrats -- rule.

What an amendment would not do: alter the First Amendment

Opponents of the Udall amendment make wild claims that it would erode the First Amendment.

However, the proposed amendment would not give government the ability to regulate ideas or expression, but only the ability to prevent individuals and artificial entities from using millions upon billions of dollars to ensure that their voices are heard in the political process above the voices of the rest of us. It would not permit the government to discriminate based on a speaker's viewpoint; so while Congress could choose to restrict outside group spending on elections, it could not restrict the spending of just the Sierra Club or the National Rifle Association.

In fact, the amendment would restore the First Amendment to the commonsense understanding maintained throughout the first 200 years of the country. By ensuring that everyone's voice could be heard and counted, it would advance First Amendment values undermined by the Supreme Court's wrongheaded decisions in cases such as Citizens United, McCutcheon and Buckley. As Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissent in this year's McCutcheon case, "Where enough money calls the tune, the general public will not be heard. Inso­far as corruption cuts the link between political thought and political action, a free marketplace of political ideas loses its point."

Support by the numbers

  • More than 2 million people have signed petitions supporting an amendment.
  • Eight in 10 Americans say they oppose the Citizens United decision.
  • 16 states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia) and the District of Columbia have supported a constitutional amendment. To indicate support, state legislatures either approved a resolution or signed a letter, or voters approved a ballot measure.
  • 550 cities and towns have backed an amendment.
  • On April 2, the day of the McCutcheon decision, people staged 151 protests in 41 states in response to the ruling.

These numbers show that the movement for a constitutional amendment is popular and nonpartisan. Poll after poll proves that no matter which party citizens identify with, Americans are frustrated by corporations drowning out their voices and exercising too much power in Washington, D.C. One recent and representative poll, showing three-to-one support for a constitutional amendment, finds equal support for a constitutional amendment among Republicans and Democrats. Americans simply want their voices to be heard by lawmakers.

What the Supreme Court rulings did

In the 2010 Citizens United ruling, the Supreme Court gave corporations and the wealthy the green light to spend unlimited sums to influence elections. That prompted a surge of money to flow through trade associations and newly created nonprofit groups that do not have to disclose the identities of their donors, as well as to super PACs (which do disclose their donors).

A December 2012 Public Citizen analysis showed that election spending by outside groups in 2012 began to rival the amount spent by candidates and the national parties, suggesting that outside groups may become the dominant voices in coming election cycles. In 2012, spending by outside groups -- those not affiliated with a campaign -- rose 243 percent over the previous presidential election cycle, reaching around $1.29 billion. And it's only getting worse -- as of May, six months from Election Day, there had been three times more secret spending in the 2014 elections than at the same point in the 2012 presidential election cycle.

In the recent April McCutcheon decision, the Supreme Court eliminated the limit on the total amount a person can give directly to candidates, party committees and political action committees in any election cycle. Now, individuals can give $5.9 million to a political party, its federal candidates and their affiliated political committees in an election cycle. This will dramatically increase the influence of the superrich. Only about 1,200 people gave close to the maximum permissible aggregate contribution in the 2012 election; this is the incredibly narrow slice of the public from which the multimillion-dollar givers will come.

The 1976 Buckley v. Valeo ruling established the doctrine colloquially known as "money equals speech" and imposed Supreme Court-made constitutional obstacles to imposing limits on what can be spent on elections.

But money is not the same as speech. Money is property that can be used to amplify speech, but it is not speech. By allowing only the wealthiest to dominate elections, to decide which candidates have enough funding to run, to set the agenda, the rights of average Americans to be heard by the candidates are being violated.

Conclusion

A constitutional amendment would help to guard the First Amendment rights of all American citizens to be heard in our elections and in government overall. We urge you to join the nationwide movement and call on Collins to add her name as a co-sponsor to the Udall constitutional amendment and vote "yes" to reestablish the core meaning of democracy: rule by the people.

Karilyn Gower
Press Officer

http://www.citizen.org


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