Grassroots campaigns with the lofty goal of amending the US Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court’s landmark 2010 Citizens United ruling got a thumbs up from millions of voters across country on Election Day.
Voters approved ballot measures in two states and more than 120 cities in several states calling upon legislators to pass an amendment to the Constitution to overturn the Citizens United ruling that unleashed the deluge of unfettered campaign spending that helped make 2012 the most expensive election season in history.
The ballot measures faced little organized opposition, and voters approved every measure placed on ballots by campaign finance reform activists across the country. In several cases, 70 percent to 80 percent of voters supported the measures.
The ballot measures and resolutions are non-binding, and it remains to be seen if elected officials will heed the wishes of voters and initiate the long march toward amending the US Constitution to restore campaign finance limits like those shattered by the Citizens United ruling.
Reformers, however, say the millions of voters who supported the ballot measures make it clear that Americans are fed up with endless streams of negative campaign ads and the record amounts of money spent on political campaigns that increasingly come from mega-wealthy and even secret donors.
“It’s time to get the money out of politics, and the voters back in,” said Aquene Freechild, senior organizer with Public Citizen’s Democracy Is for People campaign.
In Colorado, voters approved Amendment 65 by a margin of nearly 74 percent to 26 percent. Amendment 65 instructs the state’s congressional delegation to propose and support a constitutional amendment allowing Congress and the states to limit campaign contributions, and also instructs the state legislature to support such an amendment. Thirty-eight state legislatures are needed to ratify an amendment to the Constitution.
A similar statewide initiative passed in Montana with support from 75 percent of voters.
Earlier this year, the US Supreme Court stood by its Citizens United ruling and threw out a 100-year old Montana law banning corporate spending in state elections. Meanwhile, Montanans have watched an unfolding scandal surrounding a right-wing group called American Tradition Partnership that has challenged campaign contribution limits in court while facing allegations of illegal electioneering during the 2010 election.
“The Rocky Mountain rebellion that began in Montana is spreading, and folks in Washington had better pay attention,”” said Derek Cressman, who leads the Amend 2012 campaign for Common Cause, one of two main progressive groups that worked to place the measures on ballots.
Chicago voters approved an amendment measure by 74 percent, and local resolutions were passed in 120 cities and towns across Massachusetts. Local measures also passed in cities and towns in Oregon, Colorado, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and California.
“The fact that voters in red Montana, blue Massachusetts, and purple Colorado all agree that Citizens United has to go tells you something very profound about the American values we all hold in common and how hopelessly out of touch the Supreme Court is with them,” Cressman said.
A recent Associated Press poll found that 81 percent of Americans support limits on corporate campaign spending and a vast majority who have heard of Citizens United believe the decision has had a negative effect on elections.
Move to Amend, another group the placed measures to overturn Citizens United on the ballots in a list of cities, has pledged to abolish “corporate personhood.”
In the Citizens United ruling, the Supreme Court majority argued that limiting donations to outside campaign groups such as super-PACs by corporations and unions was a violation of the First Amendment. Opponents such as Move to Amend say the court in effect granted free-speech rights normally enjoyed by persons to corporations and created “corporate personhood.”