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Democracy Initiative Organizations Release Statements on the 5th Anniversary of Citizens United Urging Reform

Five years after the SCOTUS ruling in Citizens United, Democracy Initiative organizations are united in fighting to end the corrupting influence of money in our political process
Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Washington, DC – Today, members of the Democracy Initiative released statements articulating the consequences of the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United v. FEC decision. These statements are a small part of the movement of millions of Americans who are frustrated with the dysfunctional politics of the status quo. 

Continue reading for statements from member organizations of the Democracy Initiative. 

From Sarita Gupta, Jobs With Justice Executive Director:

“Five years since the Supreme Court’s shocking Citizens United decision, big money spent by extremist conservatives in politics has done nothing but widen our country’s inequality gap even further. It’s the exact kind of pay-to-play shenanigans that makes it impossible for our democracy to be truly representative, and for the voices of all people – particularly working people – to be heard. Because virtually every issue that we care about from climate change, to education, to Wall Street reform, goes back to the power of money and corporations in politics.

“We have to end the corrupting influence of money in politics. On every single one of those issues, there are big corporations standing in the way of change. Are we going to stand for this? Or are we going to speak up on behalf of regular people?” 

From Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President & CEO:

“We shouldn’t have to pay to play in American democracy. Our public officials shouldn’t regard us as second-class citizens just because we don’t donate, or don’t donate enough, to their campaign. That’s like the police not protecting your home because you couldn’t afford tickets to the Policeman’s Ball.

“The NAACP has been working hard for many years-even decades to reform our criminal justice system so that not only does Black Lives Matter, but All Lives Matter when it comes receiving equal justice. But we also want to make sure our voices also matter when it comes to making our political system more representative of true democracy. 

"We are not just facing oppression from bad or poorly trained policing. We are facing oppression from the very democracy that promised us an equal voice. Getting big money out of politics is an equal rights issue because it disbars millions of Americans for the sake of the American millionaires. It is time to level the playing field.”

From Mike Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director:

“The hundreds of millions spent by big polluters in recent elections shows that the deeply-flawed Citizens Uniteddecision has given the same people polluting our air and water with toxic contamination a free pass to pollute our democracy with toxic money. On the fifth anniversary of this decision, we’re reminded how it has let a handful of billionaires drown out the voices of everyone else, whether its those fighting for clean air, championing safe workplaces, or defending our right to vote. Five years of Citizens United is five years too many. That’s why the Sierra Club is joining the chorus of voices supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn this decision and backing legislation get big money out of politics and restore a government of, by, and for the people.” 

From Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch Executive Director:

Citizens United allows corporations to have yet another avenue for gaming the political system. It allows corporations to use their political influence to essentially buy themselves a government that is willing to implement their agenda. We need to make sure that both corporate personhood and unlimited campaign expenditures aren’t allowed in our system. As long as they are, our democracy will be hobbled and moneyed elite and their political henchmen will hold political power.” 

From Nan Aron, Alliance for Justice President:

“Five years ago today, in a stunning display of judicial overreach, the Supreme Court abruptly broke with long-settled precedent to fundamentally change the rules of the game in favor of big business.

Citizens United was no isolated case.  It is part of a pattern in which the Roberts Court majority repeatedly pursues an agenda that favors powerful corporate interests and the wealthy at the expense of everyday Americans.”

For the complete release, click here

From Karen Hobert-Flynn, Common Cause Senior Vice President for Strategy and Programs:

“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has correctly described Citizens United as the worst decision of the Roberts Court; that makes it very bad indeed. From courthouses to statehouses and the nation’s Capitol, it has given us a generation of politicians who are more focused on the concerns of their big dollar donors than the challenges facing the millions of Americans struggling to reach or remain in the middle class. Congress should listen to the 16 states and more than 600 localities whose voters or their representatives have called for a constitutional amendment to reverse the decision.​​"

From the Communications Workers of America (CWA):

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable are pushing a trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that would result in an even bigger corporate power grab. The TPP would place the “expected future profits” of multinational corporations ahead of U.S. citizens, communities, our health and security. Corporations could challenge any laws and regulations that they believe jeopardize their profits in secret, international tribunals.“

For the complete release, click here.

From Annie Leonard, Greenpeace USA Executive Director:

“Urgently needed policies to take action on climate change are being blocked by politicians that are beholden to their wealthy corporate donors, like climate denier billionaires the Koch Brothers. Citizens United needs to be overturned, so that those with vast fortunes can no longer buy the voices and votes of our politicians. We need to get corporations out, and people back into our democracy."

 From Brenda Wright, Demos Vice President of Legal Strategies:

Five years after Citizens United, our big money political system is stalling economic mobility for working families and undermining our nation’s struggle for racial equity.  To guarantee a government that is truly of, by, and for all the people, we must lift up the voices of average voters by matching small political contributions with limited public funds, and put reasonable limits on translating economic might into political power.  To limit big money, we’ll need to rescue our pro-democracy Constitution from a series of misguided Supreme Court rulings—either by transforming the Court’s approach to money in politics or amending the Constitution directly.”

 From John Bonifaz, Co-Founder and President of Free Speech for People:

"In the five years since the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, Americans all across the country have risen up to demand a 28th Amendment to the US Constitution to reclaim our democracy," says John Bonifaz, the Co-Founder and President of Free Speech For People.

"And, we will keep rising until we win. History is on our side. We the people, neither we the corporations nor big money interests, shall rule in America." 

From Marge Baker, People for the American Way Executive Vice President:

"Citizens United didn't only set the stage for the massive rise in outside spending we've seen since then; it also reinvigorated a national movement that has made incredible advances in these five years.

“Since the ruling was handed down in 2010, local organizers have successfully advocated for resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse decisions like Citizens United in sixteen states and more than 600 cities and towns. It's a campaign that has gone from the grassroots to the halls of Congress, where this September the Senate held a historic vote on one such proposal. In just five years, five million Americans have signed their name to petitions calling for a constitutional amendment to fix our democracy.

“The message of these resolutions and signatures is clear: the richest and most powerful among us should not be able to buy elections. The strength of your political voice should not be dictated by how much money you have in your wallet.”

For the complete statement, click here.

From Nick Nyhart, Public Campaign President and CEO:

"On the fifth anniversary of Citizens United there’s no better time to take up legislation to increase political participation and empower everyday people in politics. The Government By the People Act, along with other important bills to address our broken campaign finance being introduced today, are critical to create a fairer, more equal democracy."

From Robert Weissman, Public Citizen President:

“The American people understand the corruption of the political system and its consequences. Five years after the Supreme Court handed down the abomination known as Citizens United, we know that our country will not be able to address the great challenges it faces – from putting people to work and raising wages to providing health care to all, from reducing wealth inequality to averting catastrophic climate change, and much more – without ending corporate and super-rich dominance of our elections.”  

For the complete statement, click here.

From Dan Smith, U.S. PIRG Democracy Campaign Director:

“On the fifth anniversary of the wrong-headed Citizens United decision, the need to get big money out of our elections couldn’t be greater. U.S. PIRG applauds the reintroduction of critical reform legislation by over a dozen leaders in Congress today, including the Democracy for All Amendment, introduced by Senator Tom Udall, and the Government by the People Act, introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes.”

For the complete statement, click here.

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 The Democracy Initiative (DI) is a coalition of 55 civil rights, environmental, labor, and civic organizations formed to restore the core principles of democracy and political equality. Originally formed in 2012, the DI represents more than 35 million members nationwide.