The Oregon Legislature has just passed a measure calling for a federal constitutional amendment overturning the 2009 Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the Supreme Court ruled that corporations have the same right of “freedom of speech” as individual people do, specifically that corporations, unions or special interest groups may contribute as much money as they like to produce ads, books, or documentaries that advocate for or against any political candidate, and that they don’t have to disclose how much they have spent to do this. Citizens United is a conservative non-profit organization that famously produced a documentary about Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential election.
Thirteen other state legislatures that have called for an amendment include California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey, West Virginia, Connecticut, Illinois, Delaware, Maine and Maryland. Additionally, the people have spoken directly in the states of Montana and Colorado. Resolutions have been passed in dozens of cities, notably San Francisco, Chicago and Boston. Organizations such as Common Cause are keeping track of states and cities who have called for an amendment. GOP leader Mitch McConnell has recently called these efforts “absurd.”
Those who are calling for an amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling cite fears that big business already has too much control over our government without being allowed to legally contribute large, undisclosed amounts of cash to their preferred candidates. Liberals tend to be more upset about this than conservatives, because big-business tends to support conservative candidates. Beyond the liberal vs conservative divide, however, the power of rich corporations to give serious amounts of cash to political candidates means that ordinary citizens have even less power to affect the outcome of elections.
Many people, liberals, conservatives and independents of all stripes have come to believe that governments all over the world, but especially here in the United States, and in the Western world in general, have already been co-opted by a cartel consisting of Big Oil, Big Banks, and Big Business (including Big Pharma and Big Insurance.) Some people have begun to say that if corporations can have free speech like individuals, they’d better start paying taxes like individuals, too. Although there have been a few encouraging signs of individuals coming together to arrest the influence of Big Business, most people seem to believe that there is little, if anything, that can be done. Even if an amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision is never passed, at least people have been able to speak up to make their views known. They haven’t taken that away from us…. yet.