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State Support for Overturning Citizens United Is Growing

Following Local Lead, More States Are Considering Calling for a Constitutional Amendment to End Unlimited Corporate Spending in Elections

WASHINGTON - State measures calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission are moving through legislatures in California, New Jersey and North Carolina this week, underscoring the growing momentum to curb corporate influence over elections. In addition, a majority of Connecticut lawmakers have signed on to a letter supporting an amendment.

The movement comes during Resolutions Week, a push by Public Citizen and partner organizations to pass local resolutions nationwide that call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. As thousands of activists have answered the call, state legislative bodies also are acting to support an amendment.

Already, resolutions supporting an amendment have been passed in four states: Hawaii, New Mexico, Vermont and Rhode Island. In Maryland, a majority of lawmakers have signed a letter in support of an amendment. 

California appears to be the next state that will back an amendment. A resolution was approved by the full Assembly in March and this week passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. A full Senate vote – the final step to passage – will be held next Thursday. The Massachusetts Legislature also is considering a resolution, and its passage is anticipated by the end of the state legislative session in July.

“These state efforts show how people can reclaim the people’s rights by pursuing a constitutional amendment to ensure our democracy isn’t for sale,” said Mark Hays, campaign coordinator for Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People campaign. “They are pulling out all the stops to make it clear that democracy should be for people, not corporations and superwealthy political donors.”

In New Jersey today, activists rallied outside the statehouse in advance of a hearing in the SenateState Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee on SR47, which calls for overturning Citizens United via an amendment. They also urged assemblymembers to advance a concurrent bill, AR 86, which does the same.

And in North Carolina, dozens of activists and advocates gathered Wednesday at the State Capitol in Raleigh to show support two concurrent resolutions – H1201 and S937– which also would call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. State Rep. Verla Insko (D-Orange County) spoke at the press conference, and was joined by speakers from the North Carolina AFL-CIO and NC NAACP. The North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections, which represents 40 statewide organizations working for fairer election laws, organized the event. 

These resolutions come in the wake of strong local support for an amendment:

  • 219 local resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment have passed nationwide in the wake of the Citizens United decision. Since Public Citizen launched its Resolutions Week effort, resolutions have been passed at a rate of approximately one a day;
  • More than 100 members of Congress have backed a constitutional amendment, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. President Barack Obama also has voiced support for a constitutional amendment;
  • At least 85 national organizations have called for a constitutional amendment, 17 of which are helping to organize Resolutions Week; and
  • Petitions calling for a constitutional amendment have garnered more than 1 million signatures. Public Citizen’s petition alone has more than 100,000 signatures.

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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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