Two hundred of us recently rallied outside the Southampton estate of David Koch, the oil billionaire who has been a prime financier of the Tea Party. As Koch hosted a $50,000-per-seat fundraiser for Mitt Romney, we chanted, “Democracy Not Plutocracy,” “Our Democracy Is Not For Sale,” and “Overturn Citizens United.”
As my readers know, the Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has been a major contributor to the weakening of our democracy, as it has substantially increased the ability of corporations and the wealthy to influence our elections. This decision, along with lower-court rulings and a key tax law loophole, has allowed unlimited, anonymous contributions to foster an electoral process that is more akin to “One Dollar, One Vote,” than to “One Person, One Vote.”
The United States population now has a greater disparity in both wealth and income than we have had in decades. (For details, click here.) As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis cautioned us, “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” As we work for a more equitable economy, we must also work to reduce the influence of excessive wealth on our nation’s political system.
There are a number of organizations that are working to overturn the Citizens United decision and to support reasonable campaign finance regulation. Move To Amend (MTA) is a coalition of hundreds of organizations, calling for a Constitutional Amendment that would establish that “inalienable rights belong to human beings only, and that money is not a form of protected free speech under the First Amendment and can be regulated in political campaigns.” Through the efforts of its dozens of local affiliates, MTA has persuaded numerous local governments to endorse the establishment of a Constitutional Amendment that would help us to reclaim our democracy. For an informative flyer, prepared by Long Island’s MTA Brookhaven, click here.
People for the American Way provides, here, information and resources that are helpful in our efforts to overturn Citizens United. Public Citizen, through its Democracy is for People website, provides information and tools for those working to pass local resolutions calling for a Constitutional Amendment. United for the People provides links to a number of organizations that are working to overturn Citizens United.
United States Senator Bernie Sanders has been a leader in progressives’ efforts to achieve a more equitable economy, to overturn Citizens United, and to strengthen our democracy. As Sanders tells us, “What the Supreme Court did in Citizens United is to say to these same billionaires and the corporations they control: ‘You own and control the economy, you own Wall Street, you own the coal companies, you own the oil companies. Now, for a very small percentage of your wealth, we’re going to give you the opportunity to own the United States government.‘ That is the essence of what Citizens United is all about – and that’s why it must be overturned.” For more from Senator Sanders on this, click here.
Here is a video of excerpts of a speech that Senator Sanders gave on the floor of the Senate. Here, Sanders explains why he opposes the Citizens United decision, and he proposes a Constitutional Amendment that would overturn the decision and would authorize Congress and the states to regulate campaign finance. The second video is a conglomeration of unedited clips from the demonstration at David Koch’s Southampton estate.