Press Release: 5th Anniversary of Citizens United


PRESS RELEASE for Wednesday, January 21, 2015

To mark the 5th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s highly controversial 2010 Citizens United decision, Money Out, Voters In Wisconsin (MOVI) is holding a press conference at 9:00am in the Assembly Parlor Room, at the Wisconsin State Capitol. Following the press conference, MOVI supporters plan to meet with representatives at the Capitol.

Five years ago today, the Supreme Court issued the highly controversial 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. A split Supreme Court—with 5 justices supporting and 4 justices opposing—decided that corporations, unions and other similar entities have the same rights as those reserved for citizens, and therefore, in protection of their First Amendment free speech rights, these corporate entities can contribute unlimited funds to elections. Over the past five years, what have been the consequences of this controversial and far-reaching Supreme Court decision?

Each election cycle since the 2010 Citizens United decision has seen more and more money pouring into the system. Campaigns have become significantly more costly, and perhaps even more significant, in recent elections the candidate with most money has won over 90% of the time. Most of the money in these ever more expensive elections comes from big corporate special interest, who have vastly outpaced the contributions of small donors. In 2014, the Supreme Court further undermined the ability to regulate campaign contributions in the McCutcheon v. FEC case. This ruling struck down aggregate limits on campaign contributions to federal candidates and political committees, making it easier for corporate groups and the super wealthy to contribute large sums directly to candidates and political parties.

According to a 2012 Brennan Center for Justice poll, nearly 70% of Americans believed superPAC spending leads to corruption, and 85% believed that, compared with past elections, the money being spent by political groups in elections was more likely to lead to corruption. Thus, it appears more and more money is pouring into elections and the majority of people believe that all this money is leading to widespread corruption.

The extension of constitutional rights to corporations, unions and other similar entities, often known as “corporate personhood,” has led to other serious issues. Corporations have used their court granted constitutional rights to evade protective regulations and to shun societal obligations. For example, in an effort to avoid environmental protections, the courts have claimed that regulatory inspections violate their Fourth Amendment protections from illegal search and seizures. Corporations have even claimed the First Amendment right to religious freedom, as seen in the 2014 Hobby Lobby case. In this case, a corporation successfully claimed the first amendment right of religious freedom to avoid complying with a government mandate.

With the significant consequences of the Citizens United decision in mind, there is a movement afoot to amend the constitution, to reign in political spending and to end corporate personhood. Nationally, the Move to Amend group is working state-by-state, town-by-town, and ultimately person-by-person to overturn Citizens United by amending the U.S. Constitution. Move to Amend is a national coalition, with more than150 local affiliates and over 370,000 members. Move to Amend supports the We the People Amendment, which clarifies for the Supreme Court and all Americans that money is not speech, and therefore, campaign spending can be regulated; and only human beings—not corporations, unions, and the rest—are entitled to constitutional rights.

“Nearly all Americans share the sentiment that corporations should not have the same rights as people, and big money in politics should be removed,” stated Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, National Director of Move to Amend. “It is time for Congress to pass the We the People Amendment and send it to the states for ratification. The leadership of both parties need to realize that their voters are clamoring for this amendment, and we are only going to get louder.”

Thus far, 16 state legislatures have signaled their support in favor of some type of constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision.  Across the country, almost 600 cities, towns, villages, and other organizations have voted in favor of the Move to Amend amendment, often by an overwhelming margin. In Wisconsin’s last election, twelve communities voted in support of an amendment, with every measure garnering at least 70% support. To date, 54 Wisconsin communities that have called for the Move to Amend amendment. In total, 2.4 million people (41% of Wisconsinites) live in these jurisdictions.

 “Money in politics affects our lives everyday,” said Donna Richards, a Move to Amend volunteer of Fond du Lac, WI. “We pay too much for healthcare. Our taxes go towards corporate welfare and wars, instead of education and protecting our environment. Our energy policy is dictated by Big Oil, and we can’t even pass reasonable gun background checks because the gun manufacturers have bought half of Congress. This isn’t what democracy looks like.”

# # #
James Hartwick
Wisconsin Move to Amend, Co-chair