Delaware State Legislature Calls on the First State’s Congressional Delegation to Overturn Citizens United
Bipartisan Letter Signed by House and Senate Majorities
DOVER - A majority of members in both of Delaware’s state legislative chambers have signed on to a letter seeking support and action by Delaware’s Congressional delegation for Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment reversing the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Delaware is now the 15th state to back a constitutional amendment to curb unlimited spending in elections and adding to the national momentum to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling.
In its Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court unleashed a flood of corporate money into our political system by ruling that, contrary to longstanding precedents, corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts of money to promote or defeat candidates. The decision overturned a century of campaign finance law and led to record spending by outside groups and super PACs in the 2012 elections.
Polls show that no matter which party they identify with, Americans simply want their voices heard and listened to by lawmakers. Eight in ten Americans say they oppose the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and it’s only a matter of time before public opinion becomes visible and powerful enough that a majority of Congress is moved to follow it.
“I am so pleased the public was so engaged with this issue of taking back our election process from the shadows, and that we have a majority of both houses, and colleagues of both parties, asking our federal delegation to correct this harmful Supreme Court ruling. I am especially thankful to Common Cause Delaware, Americans for Democratic Action, and Public Citizen, for successfully spreading the word throughout our state,” said Rep. Paul Baumbach, who led the initiative together with Senators Bryan Townsend and Karen Peterson.
The sign-on letter states:
Dear Senator Carper, Senator Coons, and Representative Carney:
We, the Undersigned Members of the Delaware General Assembly, call upon you to join your colleagues and pass a constitutional amendment reversing the United States Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), which declared that corporations enjoy the First Amendment political rights of the people, and which toppled dozens of state and federal laws and two decades of judicial precedents allowing the regulation of direct corporate (for profit, not for profit, including unions) expenditures related to political campaigns.
There is no more critical foundation to our government than citizens’ confidence in fair and free elections. The Citizens United decision directly undermines this confidence, and was issued in the absence of any evidence or searching inquiry to refute the fair assumption that unbridled and opaque spending in politics harms American democracy. The Citizens United decision holds that our Congress is forbidden from regulating corporate spending related to political campaigns, and undermines critical provisions of the duly enacted McCain-Feingold Act. The United States of America’s elections should not be permitted to go to the highest bidder, and yet this is the risk that rises from the ashes of the Citizens United decision.
This risk must be abated. The Constitution must be amended to make clear the authority of our Congress to regulate expenditures related to political campaigns in a manner consistent not only with principles of freedom and democracy but also with verified facts and outcomes in a quickly-changing, technology-driven world.
Article V of the United States Constitution empowers the people, the states, and our Congress to use the constitutional amendment process to reverse bad Supreme Court decisions that threaten our society. Indeed, this is the only tool available to the American people to reverse bad constitutional decisions.
As Members of the Delaware General Assembly, we sharply disagree with the narrow majority decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and call upon our United States Congress to propose and send to the states for ratification as soon as is practical a constitutional amendment that reverses this decision, and that makes clear the right of our elected representatives and the American people to be steadfast in pursuit of fair elections and democratic sovereignty.
Very truly yours,
The signatories to date include:
Catherine Cloutier, Bruce Ennis, Bethany Hall-Long, Margaret Rose Henry, Robert Marshall, David McBride, Harris McDowell, Karen Peterson, Nicole Poore, David Sokola, Bryan Townsend
House of Representatives (24)
Michael Barbieri, Paul Baumbach, Andria Bennett, Donald Blakey, Stephanie Bolden, William Carson, Debra Heffernan, Earl Jaques, James Johnson, Quinn Johnson, Helene Keeley, John Kowalko, John L. Mitchell, Michael Mulrooney, Edward Osienski, Charles Paradee III, Charles Potter, Michael Ramone, Darryl Scott, Melanie George Smith, John Viola, Rebecca Walker, Dennis Williams, Kim Williams
The bipartisan support for the letter echoes the strong support shown in poll after poll by Republicans, Independents and Democrats alike for an amendment overturning Citizens United.
To date, fourteen other states have called for an amendment to overturn Citizens United – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia – as have Washington, D.C. and nearly 500 local municipalities including Newark, Delaware. Connecticut and Maryland also used sign-on letters, while Colorado and Montana made the call through ballot initiatives. Resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment were passed by the legislatures of California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia, as well as by the D.C. Council in Washington, D.C.
The letter represents the second major response to Citizens United in the last two years in Delaware. In 2012, Common Cause Delaware worked with Gov. Markell to pass a bill that required reporting of independent political expenditures in excess of $10,000.
The campaign in Delaware to overturn Citizens United is led by Common Cause Delaware, Americans for Democratic Action, and Public Citizen. Additional support has been provided by the Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Delaware Coalition for Open Government, Progressive Democrats of Delaware, the Delaware Chapter of the League of Women Voters, and People for the American Way.
Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest.