A group of Vermont state senators are calling on Washington to hold a constitutional convention to address the “corrupting influence of money in our political system” wrought on by the Supreme Court's 2010 decision, Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission.
The lawmakers unveiled a Senate resolution Thursday, requesting a national convention of state legislatures be called to consider constitutional amendments that would remove corporate influence from campaign finance, returning power to "the people alone."
Under Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot restrict spending on politics by corporations, labor unions or other groups—opening the door to unrivaled political spending and influence.
[T]hat dependency has evolved from a dependency on the people alone to a dependency on those who spend excessively in elections through campaigns or third-party groups, and [w]hereas, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 130 S.Ct. 876 (2010), removed restrictions on amounts of independent political spending, and [w]hereas, the removal of those restrictions has resulted in the corrupting influence of powerful economic forces, which have supplanted the will of the people by undermining our ability to choose our political leadership, write our own laws, and determine the fate of our State.
"Our representative democracy is broken," said resolution author State Sen. Ginny Lyons, D-Chittenden County. For the resolution to take effect, two thirds of state legislatures must also vote for that convention. Following, three-quarters of US states would need to ratify any proposed constitutional amendments.
“[T]he influence of Citizens United is so corrosive and so confusing," added Sen. Bob Hartwell, D-Bennington. "If the courts can’t figure it out, then the rest of the American people have to figure it out through their representatives.”
Elsewhere, grassroots groups Friday are taking part in a nationwide Day of Action Against Corporate Personhood.
Activists in 77 cities will be rising up against "corporate rule and political corruption" and volunteers with organizing group Move to Amend will be hanging freeway banners to rally passersby behind their call for a constitutional amendment to overrule Citizen's United.
May 10 marks the 127th anniversary of the Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad decision, in which the Supreme Court first ruled that corporations are "persons,” entitled to rights under the US Constitution.
"127 years ago corporate lawyers were able to exploit the 14th Amendment – intended to ensure equal rights for African Americans – and convince the Supreme Court that they deserved Constitutional protections intended for human beings,” said Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, national director of Move to Amend.
"Since that date we have seen a steady expansion of corporate power and wealth at the expense of the rights of people and communities. We’re protesting today to say enough is enough!"