The most under-covered political movement in the United States—and there are a lot of under-covered political movements in the United States—is the broad-based national campaign to enact a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court rulings that ushered in a new era of big-money politics.
On the eve of the nation’s Fourth of July celebrations, Oregon became the sixteenth state to formally call for an amendment. With bipartisan support, the state House and Senate requested that Congress take necessary steps to re-establish the basic American premise that “money is property and not speech, and [that] the Congress of the United States, state legislatures and local legislative bodies should have the authority to regulate political contributions and expenditures…”
Oregon is the fifth state to make the call for corporate accountability in three months, making 2013 a banner year for a movement that began with little attention and little in the way of institutional support after the US Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling, in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that corporations could spend as freely as they like to buy favorable election results.
Support for an amendment now stretches from coast to coast, with backing (in the form of legislative resolutions or statewide referendum results) from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia. The District of Columbia is also supportive of the move to amend, as are roughly 500 municipalities, from Liberty, Maine, to Los Angeles, California—where 77 percent of voters backed a May referendum instructing elected representatives to seek an amendment establishing that “there should be limits on political campaign spending and that corporations should not have the constitutional rights of human beings.”
“Why does it matter how many states call for an amendment? Ultimately, an amendment will have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states. That’s thirty-eight. Four more and we’re halfway there,” says Rob Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, which is working with a burgeoning Corporate Reform Coalition of more than seventy groups nationwide. “But before that, an amendment must be passed by a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the US Congress. And one of the most effective ways to show a state’s representatives and senators in Washington, DC, that there is popular demand for an amendment is to pass a resolution back home.”
The successful work by national groups such as Public Citizen, Common Cause, Free Speech for People and Move to Amend, in conjunction with grassroots coalitions that are now active from northern Alaska to the tip of the Florida Keys, is far more dramatic than most of the initiatives you’ll see from the Democratic or Republican parties—which don’t do much but fund-raise—and various and sundry groupings on the right and left. Yet, for the most part, news of reform victories are afforded scant attention even from supposedly sympathetic media.