California, First Big State To Call For A Constitutional Amendment To Overurn Citizens United. Where's New York?
A couple weeks ago, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a short piece about Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer's argument about the pernicious impact of Big Money on democracy. I wonder how many California state senators happened to read it.
"I'm just a rancher who ended up governor of Montana," Brian Schweitzer is fond of saying. Amongst the nation's governors, he is arguably the most accessible, keeping his door in the Capitol building in Helena open to ordinary Montanans.
All meetings of state officials are required to be open to the public, and all documents are available for citizen inspection. But all of this is about to change, under threat by the Supreme Court, whose Citizens United ruling two years ago opened the floodgates of corporate contributions to political PACs. In February, the court informed Montana that it could no longer enforce its own law prohibiting corporate contributions.
Schweitzer sees this as the death knell for Montana's "rare, pure form of democracy," which will now be forced to kowtow to the highest corporate bidders like the rest of the nation.
Montanans are fighting back, but on Monday the Supreme Court refused Montana's petition to keep its own law. Only a constitutional amendment can reverse the court's ruling. Schweitzer is pushing an initiative on Montana's ballot in November that instructs the state's congressional delegation to support such an amendment.
There is speculation about what the popular Schweitzer will do after he leaves the governor's office later this year-- but let me say this: Nobody is better suited than he to lead a nationwide campaign to amend the constitution and save our American democracy from the subversion of corporate cash.
This week California became the sixth state in the Union-- following New Mexico, Vermont, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Maryland-- calling for a constitutional amendment overturning the corporate Supreme Court's anti-democracy ruling in Citiznes United. This week California's state Senate overwhelmingly passed the Assembly's joint campaign reform resolution that calls for a constitutional amendment. There were 24 senators voting YES and only 11 opposed. "This measure, it reads, "would memorialize the Legislature’s disagreement with the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and would call upon the United States Congress to propose and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and to restore constitutional rights and fair elections to the people. " Clean and simple. The City Councils of Davis, Berkeley and Santa Monica had already passed similar resolutions and Republicans opposing the resolution were unwilling to speak out about their opposition. Most Americans are repulsed and concerned that the narrow 5-4 Supreme Court ruling has led directly to the creation of roughly 600 Super PACs and multi-million dollar donations from wealthy special interests.
“Today’s vote sends a clear message that California rejects this misguided ruling made by the conservative activists on the Supreme Court,” Wieckowski said. “The Legislature’s action and the 50,000 Californians who wrote in support of AJR 22, show that it is time to restore sanity to our campaign finance laws. If Congress doesn’t act, our electoral process will be more dominated by millionaires and billionaires and their concerns will drown out the voice of common Americans.”
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg praised the Senate’s passage of AJR 22.
“I’m proud that the California State Senate passed AJR 22, memorializing our disagreement with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision and calling upon the U.S. Congress to act to overturn the decision,” Steinberg said. “Since the decision, large corporations and the wealthy have dominated campaign spending. We must tip the scales back to a balance that once again gives a strong voice to the people.”
Public Citizen President Robert Weissman, a staunch critic of the ruling, described the importance of amending the constitution.
“Unless we aim to turn over control of our elections to Karl Rove, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Sheldon Adelson and a very few others, we need a constitutional amendment to reset our campaign finance system and to re-establish the principle that democracy means rule by the people, not giant corporations.”
Both President Barack Obama and Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain have heavily criticized the Supreme Court’s opinion.
The alternative to a constitutional amendment is nothing less than the end of democracy and an America ruled by a corporate oligarchy and Organized Crime.