By Community Alliance Staff
About 100 people held a candlelight vigil at the Federal Courthouse in Fresno on Jan. 20 in opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that granted corporations the same rights as people and allowed them to define unlimited corporate money in political campaigns as free speech.
The national action, taking place in more than 100 cities across America, was begun by the Move to Amend campaign (www.MoveToAmend.org) and is supported by other national organizations such as Public Citizen, Common Cause, People for the American Way and Democracy for America.
The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5 to 4 decision in January 2010 upheld “corporate personhood” asserting that the First and 14th Amendments give rights to corporations as people and their money can be considered free speech. Thus, this ruling, often referred to as Citizens United, opened the floodgates to unlimited, often anonymous, corporate spending on elections and the creation of super PACs with hundreds of millions of dollars for the purpose of tilting the results of elections in a manner that drowns the voices of citizens.
Special interest groups can now spend as much money as they wish to influence legislation or to support or attack candidates for election. Because the U.S. Supreme Court made this ruling, now only a constitutional amendment can change this status and definition. Poll after poll in the last two years has shown that more than 75% of Americans across party lines oppose this decision.
An example of special interest money in our elections was seen in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. In early December, the super PAC Restore Our Future, which is run by former Mitt Romney staffers and large donors, spent an estimated $3 million–$4 million on negative ads against Newt Gingrich, and Gingrich’s poll popularity declined to 13% from 26% earlier that month. Jonathan Hart of Fox News credited that super PAC with halting Gingrich in Iowa. Congress can no longer make laws limiting campaign spending and does not have the power to override this decision by the Supreme Court. Only a constitutional amendment or the Supreme Court can overturn its own decision.
A local coalition of diverse groups that includes Volunteers for Change Fresno, the Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian Church, the Social Justice Task Force of Wesley United Methodist Church, Peace Fresno, the Fresno Chapter of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the Central Valley Progressive PAC, the Yosemite Area Move to Amend, the Central Valley‒Sierra Progressives Chapter of Progressive Democrats of America, Democracy for America, Daily Kos, Occupy Merced and Friends of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–VT) are some of the organizations that sponsored the vigil.
“We recognize that amending the Constitution to restore the power of the people over corporations will not be easy, but we know correcting the Supreme Court is imperative to the progress of our nation,” stated David Cobb, a lawyer with Move to Amend.
To date, more than 130,000 people and hundreds of organizations have signed an online petition supporting a constitutional amendment at www.MoveToAmend.org. Some of the cities and states that have already passed resolutions are New York City, Los Angeles, Boulder, Colo., Missoula, Mont., and the state of Montana.