Washington Citizens Petition to Overturn Citizens United

On January 17, thousands of signatures were delivered to the Washington State legislator buildings in support of overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

Washington to Amend the Constitution (WAMEND), a coalition of lobbyists and special interest groups including WashPIRG, Washington Public Campaigns, and Move to Amend distributed over 12,000 signatures to the Washington State district representatives to show their support for a bill that “[requests] an amendment to the United States Constitution to return the authority to regulate election campaign contributions to congress and state legislators.”

The 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruled that the government cannot limit firms, corporations, or unions from directly advocating, or advocating through Super PACs, for political candidates. WAMEND claims that this effectively allows special interests to use their vast resources to “drown out” the public voice in politics.

After the 2012 elections, The Demos and U.S. PIRG organizations analyzed the Federal Elections Committee data to determine how much money was being poured into the system. It was found that outside spending – spending not made by the candidates or political parties – exceeded one billion dollars, nearly a fifth of total spending. Super PAC spending exceeded six hundred million dollars, while individual donations totaled only four million.

The proposed bill itself will not overturn Citizens United – only Congress can achieve this through a Constitutional amendment. However, the bill will show statewide public and legislative support for overturning the original Supreme Court ruling.

Eleven other states, including California, Hawaii, Colorado and Montana have passed similar initiatives, nearing the requirement of two-thirds of State Legislators needed to call for a Constitutional amendment.

Senator Kline spoke out against the judicial decision in a press conference during the WAMEND event. “Citizens United erodes public confidence in institutions of government and that is to nobody’s benefit. That is not a republican argument. That is not a democratic argument. We, as a nation, need to have public respect for public institutions.”

Many of the event’s volunteers echoed Senator Kline’s statement about public confidence needing to be restored. “If individuals are to participate in politics, they need faith that their voices will be heard,” said Arielle Davis, a WAMEND organizer. Davis also pointed out the intrinsic relationship between corporations and campaigning, stating, “no matter what [the senator’s] party affiliations are, they’re voting against their own interests. They’re voting against getting more money from corporations.”

On January 22, Representative Jim McGovern from Massachusetts introduced two Constitutional Amendments to overturn Citizens United. His first amendment would help Congress regulate campaign spending while his second amendment would overturn Citizens United. “We need to empower people, not corporations or big monied special interests,” commented McGovern in his floor speech.  “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.” Read more about McGovern’s amendments at freespeechforthepeople.org.

By Ray Still