Corporate Money or American Democracy: Vermont Senate to Decide

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Corporate Money or American Democracy: Vermont Senate to Decide

Statement of Aquene Freechild, Senior Organizer, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign

WASHINGTON - The Vermont Senate should take a stand against corporate influence in our democracy and pass a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling and related cases. Citizens United allows corporations to spend unlimited sums from their treasuries to influence elections.

As soon as Friday, one month after Super Tuesday, when 65 Vermont towns approved resolutions supporting this measure, the Senate will vote on whether it wants corporate interests to influence American democracy.

Vermont’s resolution – which calls for an amendment following the town mandate clarifying that corporations are not people and money is not speech – passed out of the Senate Government Operations Committees and is up for a full Senate vote.

With steadfast support across Vermont from constituents, towns and state lawmakers, the Senate would be doing its constituents an injustice by not passing this non-binding resolution. 

The resolution isn’t new; the Government Operations Committee has been considering it since it was first introduced in January 2011. The Senate version of the resolution (JRS 011), which was introduced by State Sen. Ginny Lyons and now has 11 sponsors, mirrors the language voted on in the town hall meeting landslide.

Vermont isn’t alone. The Legislatures of Hawaii and New Mexico already have passed resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment. Similar resolutions have passed in the California Assembly and the Iowa and Alaska Senate in recent weeks. Resolutions calling for an amendment to overturn Citizens United are proposed in a dozen other states. 

This is the moment for the Vermont Legislature to secure its position in history as strongly opposing the outsized influence corporations hold in our democracy. We strongly urge senators to act now.

The Senate effort was led by sponsor Sen. Virginia “Ginny” Lyons and Vermonters Say Corporations Are Not People allies, including Public Citizen; Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, an affiliate of Move to Amend; Vermont Peace & Justice Center; VPIRG; Common Cause Vermont; Occupy Burlington; Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, founders of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc.; Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility; Move to Amend; Rural Vermont; Vermont Workers Center; and Vermont Action for Peace. Many thanks to People For the American Way, United Republic and the Working Families Party for their assistance with outreach.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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