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The Story of 'Citizens United' vs. the FEC | The Nation

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Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

Opposing war, racism, sexism, climate change, economic injustice and high-stakes testing.

The Story of 'Citizens United' vs. the FEC

This is the best short history of the growth of corporate power I've ever read, heard or seen. It's also a primer on exactly why the Supreme Court's closely divided Citizens  United decision is incompatible with basic notions of democratic governance.

Created by the good folks at The Story of Stuff project, founded by Annie Leonard to creatively amplify public discourse on environmental, social and economic concerns, The Story of Citizens United v FEC explores the crisis in American democracy sparked by the Court decision that gave corporations the right to spend unlimited funds to influence elections.

As The Nation editorialized last January, "The Citizens United campaign finance decision by Chief Justice John Roberts and a Supreme Court majority of conservative judicial activists is a dramatic assault on American democracy, overturning more than a century of precedent in order to give corporations the ultimate authority over elections and governing. This decision tips the balance against active citizenship and the rule of law by making it possible for the nation's most powerful economic interests to manipulate not just individual politicians and electoral contests but political discourse itself. "

And the results of the 2010 election bore out progressive fears as corporate-front groups flooded the electoral zone with massive contributions to reactionary Tea Party candidates. In fact, as Leonard's film makes clear, the kind of independent groups that corporations are now allowed to support spent $300 million to influence the 2010 midterm elections, more than every midterm election since 1990 combined.

The problem is that the US Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution to extend the First Amendment rights of real people to corporations. Congress does not have the power to overturn a court decision based on the Constitution but there are a host of legislative remedies nonetheless available.

The ultimate solution is the Free Speech for People Amendment to the US Constitution. Corporations are not people, they do not vote, and they should not be able to influence election outcomes. But it's (rightfully) difficult to amend the Constitution so short of that, legislative reforms like full disclosure of corporate electioneering activities, public financing of elections and a shareholder protection act could all help mitigate the damage done.

How to Help:

Sign Public Citizen’s petition to support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. FEC and get the people back in charge of our democracy!

Join the petition efforts of Free Speech for People, People for the American Way and Move to Amend.  

Urge your Congress members to take the Pledge to Protect America’s Democracy.

Hold a Story of Citizens United v. FEC house party. Download everything you need here.

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