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Today, U.S. PIRG marks the nine year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s misguided Citizens United decision.
The Citizens United decision determined, essentially, that money is speech and corporations are people. Consequently, we now live in the world of Super PACs, “dark money,” and pathways to unlimited campaign contributions by individuals, corporations, and non-profits. Even supporters of the decision cannot deny the sad reality: candidates have lost control of their campaigns, voters are left confused, and citizens are losing their democracy.
Big-money politics has damaged our democracy. Too many people feel that their elections are bought and sold long before they get a chance to vote. This distrust leads people to disengage from the political process, and that’s only part of the danger. As the influence of ordinary Americans shrinks, the ability of lobbyists, special interests, and political donors to affect legislation only grows. It’s never been more important for regular citizens to fully participate in civic life. Not just to vote, but to make sure their elected representative know where there stand and truly represent them.
Fortunately, real opportunities for reform exist and bipartisan support for reform is growing. Across the country, Americans are standing up for and winning reforms. In state after state, voters and legislators have passed legislation supporting an amendment to the Constitution that would overturn Citizens United and allow for reasonable limits on big-money politics. Nineteen states and over 700 communities nationwide have called for an amendment to overturn the decision. This energy is slowly making its way to Washington D.C. This month, the Democracy for All Act, which would restore the right to regulate money in politics, was introduced in Congress with bi-partisan support.
It’s important to note, even in these hyper-partisan times, support for an amendment isn’t limited to any one political party. A recent poll shows that a full 78 percent of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents support overturning Citizens United. The New York Times shows that 85% of Americans believe our country’s campaign finance system needs fundamental changes or must be completely rebuilt.
On the ninth anniversary of Citizens United, opportunities for real reform exist, from cities and states to the halls of the Congress. Americans want solutions; they’re proposing solutions, voting for solutions, and putting solutions into practice. And, progress can be made even while Citizens United remains the law of the land. We need to use all the tools of our democracy, voter driven referenda, state and federal legislation, and common-sense regulations to return power to the American people.
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