"The greatest political reform of our time will be to abolish the legal concept of ‘corporate personhood’ and the inherently anti-democratic equation of money with political speech," says Bill Moyer, the energetic founder and executive director of the Backbone Campaign, the grassroots movement to embolden Americans to push back against corporate power and political corruption.
Across the country Friday, that debate was opening up.
Pushing back against an activist US Supreme Court that has given corporations carte blanche to warp not just our politics but the republic itself, grassroots reformers and activists have used the one-year anniversary of the court’s lawless decision in the Citizens United v. FEC case to argue that democracy itself is endangered when corporations are allowed spend without limitation or accountability to influence elections.
The Citizens United ruling eliminated century-old restrictions on corporate spending to support favored candidates and to oppose those who might side with consumers, environmentalists, labor unions and communities.
The corporations recognized the opening given them by the hyper-partisan majority on the high court and seized it.
"The outrageous, misguided and illogical Citizens United decision has empowered corporations and endangered our democracy. Secretive corporate and billionaire donors exerted an outsized influence over Election 2010," explains Public Citizen executive director Robert Weissman. "Their spending now casts a pall over all lawmaking, because any members of Congress who challenge corporate interests know they now risk facing a barrage of attack ads in the next election. And all parties agree that 2010 was just a warm-up for 2012. This is no way to run a democracy. That’s why a growing movement is working for passage of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United."
That movement was making itself heard Friday in dozens of cities and towns across the country, from a "Get Corporations Out of Politics" gathering on the village green in Hyannis, Massachusetts, to a "Rally to Legalize Democracy" in Kent, Washington, to a "Wake for Democracy" in Madison, Wisconsin — where dozens of activists braved temperatures hovering around zero to cheer speakers on the steps of the State Capitol.
In Washington, a "For the People" Summit coordinated by Moyer and supported by a cross-section of reform groups—including the Alliance for Democracy, American Independent Business Alliance, Backbone Campaign, Center for Media and Democracy, Changing the Game, Code Pink, Coffee Party USA, Common Cause, Democracy Matters, Democrats.com, Fix Congress First, Free Speech For People, MoveOn, Move to Amend, PeaceMajority Report, People for the American Way, Progressive Democrats of America, Public Citizen, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom—heard Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig and leaders of the movement to amend the Constitution in order to renew the founding faith that free speech in a human right that must be shouted down by corporate spending.