Vermont Legislature Passes Resolution Challenging Citizens United
From 'Pipe Dream' to 'Mainstream' citizens fight back against corporate personhood
Vermont joined Hawaii and New Mexico on Thursday to become the third state to have its legislature pass a resolution calling on the US Congress to pass an amendment to the Constitution that would reverse the Supreme Court's 2010 'Citizens United' decision.
The vote in the state House passed 92-40, just one week after the Vermont Senate approved it 26-3. The resolution argues for an amendment that establishes that money is not speech and corporations are not people. In addition to those passed in New Mexico and Hawaii, similar resolutions have passed at least one chamber in California, Alaska and Iowa.
“By fighting so passionately, Vermonters have put the state on the map as opposing corporate influence in our elections. Public Citizen is proud to have played a coordinating role with our Vermont partners in this movement victory,” said Aquene Freechild, senior organizer with Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People campaign. “The Vermont Legislature is the third state legislature to formally call for an amendment. I have no doubt it will be among the first to ratify.”
“This resolution is a reaffirmation of the belief, shared by many Vermont communities, that corporations should not be allowed to engage in unlimited spending to unduly influence elections,” said Speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives Shap Smith. “With our longstanding tradition of town meetings and our citizen Legislature, any Vermonter can have an impact. We should stand together to fight any attempt to impede on our democracy.”
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The movement for a "constitutional amendment to take back our democracy has gone from being considered a ‘pipe dream’ to the mainstream. Vermonters should be proud to have a leading role in driving forward this historic movement.” --Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen
The resolution came after months of campaigning by local activists to win support in towns throughout the state. On Tuesday, a leading activist in the effort, Georgina Forbes of Norwich, Vt., was at the Capitol in Washington for an event promoting grassroots state efforts for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.
Activists involved with Vermonters Say Corporations Are Not People got at least 65 towns to pass statements supporting a state resolution.
"People were going to the post office, to their town dump, their grocery store, and talking to their neighbors," Freechild said. "People are just disgusted by the amount of money in politics."
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[...] Public Citizen President Robert Weissman, “[Thursday’s] passage shows that a movement for a constitutional amendment to take back our democracy has gone from being considered a ‘pipe dream’ to the mainstream. Vermonters should be proud to have a leading role in driving forward this historic movement.”
Sen. Ginny Lyons (who introduced the Senate resolution) has persisted for more than a year, reflecting concerns in Vermont about the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. The effort was bolstered by grassroots efforts in 65 Vermont cities and towns that passed resolutions last month.
“Most Vermonters don’t believe that the founders of our Constitution intended for business corporations, whose sole purpose is to raise money for their owners, to be able to participate, on behalf of those owners, in elections,” said Rep. David Sharpe, who led the charge to pass the House version. “This decision by the United States Supreme Court effectively gave the owners of those corporations two ways to influence policies in our state and our country. Voters in towns all across the state of Vermont do not want their voices drowned out by the voice of corporate wealth and influence, and we call upon the United States Congress to take steps to reverse the decision of the Supreme Court.”
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