Maureen Turner

The Valley Advocate

January 29, 2013


“The effort picked up speed quickly, helped along by Powell’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court by Richard Nixon. “Over the following years, a divided Supreme Court … transformed the First Amendment into a powerful tool for corporations seeking to evade democratic control and sidestep sound public welfare measures,” Clements said.

The most dramatic example of that trend: the Court’s game-changing 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which lifted restrictions on certain political expenditures by corporations and labor unions on First Amendment grounds. That was followed shortly by a federal appeals court ruling in v. FEC that struck down limits on contributions to “independent-expenditure committees” and led to the rise of that new breed of political action committee, the “super PAC”—which, in theory, at least, works independently of individual candidates. (In reality, many have clear, if unofficial, allegiances to particular candidates.)

Those two rulings, Clements said, “have resulted in an exponential rise of big money dominance of our politics, presenting a direct and serious threat to our democracy.”

But as corporate America once heeded Powell’s call to battle, so activists are mobilizing now to push back against the Citizens United ruling via the very document that ruling relied on: the U.S. Constitution. Last week, the Valley’s new Congressman, Democrat Jim McGovern, filed two amendment bills that would overturn Citizens United by asserting that the rights guaranteed by the Constitution are limited to “natural persons” and would affirm the government’s power to regulate campaign finance.

“[W]e need to empower people—not corporations or big monied special interests,” McGovern said in a speech on the House floor. “Our current system has been corrupted—it undermines the rights of ordinary citizens. The preamble to the Constitution is ‘we the people.’ Let us hope this Congress doesn’t forget that.” “

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