Editorial: Unite states against Citizens United

The bill we’d like to see in the NH legislature

By TNH Editorial Staff
On February 16, 2012

Two years later, the movement builds.

This past weekend, the New Mexico legislature passed a resolution opposing the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

The court case declared that the first amendment prohibited pre-established limits on independent spending for political purposes by corporations and unions.

New Mexico joined Hawaii in that regard, which was ahead of its time in passing a similar resolution back in 2010. Similar resolutions have been introduced in Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Maine.

At the local level, resolutions opposing the decision have been passed in the cities of Oakland and Los Angeles, as well as New York City, which is notable for the fact that it is the base for so many corporations.

The 5-4 decision immediately became a landmark decision when it was passed in January 2010. Because of that fact, it might seem counter intuitive to some that the backlash is coming two years later.

The reason for that, however, is pretty simple: the presidential primaries in the run-up to the 2012 election have demonstrated exactly what this law means. And it's a reality that even the Supreme Court justices may have seen coming.

Two years after the decision, we have entered the age of the Super PAC, in which people and corporations can make unlimited contributions to organizations associated – but not "coordinating" with – a particular presidential candidate, giving them much more sway than donating directly to the candidate, where they face a limit of $2,500. This has led to politicians getting donations in the millions of dollars from a single person or organization. It has fundamentally changed for the worse campaign finance, which was already screwed up to begin with.

While Mitt Romney and the Republican Party may be most closely associated with "corporations are people too" (the problem with that statement lies in the fact that corporations get the benefits of being a person without the accompanying responsibilities the rest of us have) the reality is the fact that both parties have joined the Super PAC game without shame – in President Obama's case, it's an undisputed flip-flop from his previous statements on campaign finance.

Typically, resolutions expressing disapproval of some action aren't very inspiring. But in this case, resolutions are the precursor to the only real course of action against the decision. Now that the nation's highest court has extended the law of the land to include unlimited corporate influence on politics, the states are the only ones who can do something about it, barring an unexpected change of heart in Washington D.C.

The path to overturning the decision is a constitutional amendment. It takes resolutions from 2/3 of the states to call a constitutional amendment, at which 3/4 of the states would need to approve an amendment.

That's why a bill formally opposing the Citizens United decision is what we'd like to see in the New Hampshire legislature. The decision is an affront to traditional representative democracy.

The downfall of Citizens United depends on united states. And New Hampshire needs to join in the action.


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