The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday reaffirmed a decision it made two years ago in Citizens United v. Federal election Commission that gave corporations the right to spend unlimited money to support or oppose political candidates. In the wake of this recent decision, I plan to introduce in the City Council tomorrow a resolution calling for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Citizens United case and restore the ability of government at all levels to limit the ability of corporations and wealthy individuals to unduly influence elections.
To read the resolution, click on the attachment below or scroll to the bottom of this e-mail.
The Supreme Court’s decision yesterday in American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock underscores the pernicious effect of the Citizens United case. The U.S. Supreme Court let stand the Citizens United case by summarily rejecting the Montana Supreme Court’s findings that political expenditures by corporations led to corruption or the appearance of corruption in Montana.
The Court’s decision flies in the face of reality. In Illinois, we have tragically experienced firsthand the corrosive and distorting effect of unregulated and unlimited campaign donations on the body politic. Unregulated money and political corruption go hand in hand.
Ever since the Citizens United case was decided in 2010, an unprecedented amount of outside money has poured into the presidential campaign and races for the House and Senate. “As the New York Times editorialized, “the Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century . . . [and] paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding.”
I have been joined in this effort by U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky and representatives from some of the nation’s leading government watchdog organizations, including Common Cause, MoveOn, Move to Amend, Public Citizen, Illinois PIRG and Democratic Municipal Officials. Not only does this resolution give the City Council the opportunity to add its collective voice against the Citizens United case, but I’ve also co-sponsored a measure that will place on the November ballot an advisory referendum, asking voters whether they support the ability of government to regulate and limit corporate spending on political campaigns.
The measure for an advisory referendum was approved last week by the City Council Committee on Finance and awaits final passage by the full City Council on tomorrow (Wednesday).
If it passes the resolution, the Chicago City Council will join a legion of state legislatures and city councils across the nation, which have denounced the Citizens United case and called for a constitutional amendment to restore the ability of government to regulate and limit the amount of money corporations and wealthy individuals can spend to influence elections.
It is essential that the members of the City Council speak out on this important issue. We’ve seen the devastating impact on our communities of federal spending and tax policies driven by the wealthy few at the expense of the many. These policies exist because the wealthy and powerful dominate the debate and drown out opposing views.
I plan to refer the resolution to the City Council Committee on Human Relations, which I chair, and will hold hearings in early to mid-July. I will let you know of the date, time and location of the hearings as soon as they are scheduled.
RESOLUTION CALLING UPON THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS
TO PROPOSE AND SEND TO THE STATES FOR RATIFICATION
A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO OVERTURN
CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTIONS COMMISSION AND
RESTORE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS AND
FAIR ELECTIONS TO THE PEOPLE
WHEREAS, The free speech protections set forth in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution are fundamental to our democracy; and
WHEREAS, In adopting the First Amendment, our nation’s founders intended to protect the free speech rights of people, not corporations; and
WHEREAS, Corporations are not people but, instead, are artificial entities created by the laws of states and nations; and
WHEREAS, Fair and free elections are essential to democracy and effective self-governance; and
WHEREAS, Campaign finance laws, including limits on campaign contributions, are key tools to combating political corruption; and
WHEREAS, For the past three decades, a divided United States Supreme Court has transformed the First Amendment into a powerful tool for corporations seeking to evade and invalidate democratically enacted reforms; and
WHEREAS, This corporate misuse of the First Amendment and the United States Constitution reached an extreme conclusion in the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, 130 S.Ct. 876 (2010); and
WHEREAS, Justice John Paul Stevens, writing on behalf of the four dissenting justices in Citizens United, noted that “corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their ‘personhood’ often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of ‘We the People’ by whom and for whom our Constitution was established;” and
WHEREAS, Justice Stevens further observed in his dissent that corporations have special advantages not enjoyed by natural persons, such as limited liability, perpetual life, and favorable treatment of the accumulation and distribution of assets, that allow them to spend prodigious sums on campaign messages that have little or no correlation with the beliefs held by natural persons; and
WHEREAS, Over thirty-five years earlier, the Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo held that government cannot constitutionally limit the amount of money that individuals can spend to influence the electoral process; and
WHEREAS, The Supreme Court’s rulings in Citizens United and Buckley have posed a serious and direct threat to our democracy by unleashing a torrent of corporate and personal money in our political process unmatched by any campaign expenditures in United States history; and
WHEREAS, Restricting the ability of Congress and the States to impose legal limits on political contributions and spending allows corporations and wealthy individuals to unduly influence elections, candidate selection, and policy decisions, and drowns the voices of ordinary citizens; and
WHEREAS, The general public and political leaders in our nation have long recognized that the interests of corporations do not always correspond with the public interest and, therefore, the political influence of corporations should be limited; and
WHEREAS, Article V of the United States Constitution empowers and obligates the people and States of the United States of America to use the Constitutional amendment process to correct those egregiously wrong decisions of the United States Supreme Court that go to the heart of our democracy and republican form of self-government; now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the Mayor and the members of the City Council of the City of Chicago respectfully but emphatically disagree with the majority opinion and decision of the United States Supreme Court inCitizens United v. Federal Elections Commission; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That we, the Mayor and the members of the Chicago City Council of the City of Chicago, call upon the United States Congress to propose and send to the states for ratification a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That such a Constitutional amendment should make clear that the rights protected by the Constitution are the rights of natural persons and do not extend to corporations; that corporations are subject to regulation by the people through the legislative process so long as the regulations are consistent with the powers of Congress and the States and do not limit freedom of the press; and that Congress and the States shall have the power to regulate and set limits on all election contributions and expenditures, including political contributions and expenditures from individuals and corporations; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that a suitable copy of this resolution be prepared and submitted to the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, the Minority Leader of the United States Senate, and to each member of the Illinois Congressional delegation.
JOSEPH A. MOORE
Alderman, 49th Ward