UPDATE: The US Senate hearings have been rescheduled for next Tuesday. Spend this week working on your testimony and submit it to The People’s Testimony.

Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Melissa Mark-Viverito’s op-ed on the movement to get money out of politics. 

The People’s Testimony

Next Tuesday, the United States Senate is holding hearings on three resolutions that would amend the Constitution and overturn Citizens United v. FEC. This Supreme Court ruling, which was handed down in January of 2010, equated corporate political contributions with freedom of speech, opening the floodgates to unlimited corporate spending to influence elections.

Citizens United sparked a movement that has taken off nation-wide. Over 100 grassroots organizations have come together under the banner United for the People to press for overturning the ruling. Over 275 cities and towns and six state legislatures (Hawaii, New Mexico, Vermont, Maryland, Rhode Island and California) are now calling on Congress to propose an amendment to the Constitution. That includes New York City — in January of this year, the Progressive Caucus of the City Council sponsored a resolution declaring that money is not speech, and corporations are not people. In response to this mounting pressure, the United States Senate is beginning to take action on this crucial issue.

But this is just the beginning of the fight. In order to pass a Constitutional amendment, it has to be proposed either by a 2/3 vote of both houses of Congress, or else by a constitutional convention convened when the legislatures of 2/3 of the states so request. The amendment has to be ratified either by the legislatures of 3/4 of the states, or by conventions in 3/4 of the states, depending on which means of ratification Congress proposes. In the past, all of the amendments to the Constitution, of which there are now 27, were proposed by Congress, and all but one were ratified by state legislatures. The convention route has never been used for proposing an amendment, and was used only once for ratifying an amendment.[1]

Given the ambitious goal of a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, grassroots action is more important than ever. The People’s Testimony, a project of United for the People, is gathering testimonies about the impact of money in politics in order to amplify the July 17th hearings. In order to protect a government of, by, for the people, “We the People” must take action and raise our voices to take our democracy back from corporate control. As long as corporations continue to buy elections, we will never have a government that prioritizes people over profit.

The influence of corporate spending in elections is only becoming more prevalent. In 2006, outside spending in mid-term elections totaled at $68.9 million. In 2010, after the Citizens United ruling, that figure shot up to $304.7 million.[2] Our task is clear. We need to put the people back in charge through a constitutional amendment that puts an end to unlimited corporate political spending. The integrity of our democracy depends on it.

[1] United for the People FAQ

[2] Citizens United v. FEC: What It Means for Democracy


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