Overturning Citizens United

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On Monday May 7, the City Council will vote to refer a resolution I am co-sponsoring in support of an amendment to the United States Constitution to regulate corporate political spending and campaign financing.

The resolution comes as part of a national campaign to overturn the Citizens United ruling by the United States Supreme Court, spearheaded locally by Washington Public Campaigns, a group I’ve been in touch with since late 2011 about this issue. Groups such as United Republic are organizing nationally, seeking to gather momentum for this necessary change. Councilmember Conlin is the lead sponsor of the resolution.

A full council vote is scheduled for Monday, May 14.

In 2010 the Supreme Court ruled that corporations have the same rights as persons to unrestricted spending on political speech, and overturned parts of the federal 2002 Campaign Reform Act a majority of the Supreme Court interpreted the First Amendment of the Constitution to afford corporations the same free speech protections as persons.

This has allowed for unlimited corporate spending to influence campaigns, elections, lawmaking, and public policy decisions. The Court’s decision severely restricts the ability of federal, state and local governments like Seattle to enact reasonable campaign finance reforms and regulations regarding corporate political activity.

Several proposed amendments to the Constitution have recently been introduced in Congress that would allow governments to regulate the raising and spending of money by corporations to influence elections.

The Seattle resolution notes that the people of the United States have previously used the constitutional amendment process to correct decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court that are widely deemed to be egregious or wrongly decided or significantly out-of-step with the prevailing values of the populace, and resolves that:

the City of Seattle calls on the United States Congress to initiate steps to amend the United States Constitution with provisions that clearly state that:

(1)  Corporations are not human beings, and only human beings are endowed with Constitutional rights.

(2)  Contributions and expenditures for political purposes are not Constitutionally-protected speech, and that, therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.

(3)  Congress and the States shall have the power to regulate contributions and expenditures for campaigns and ballot measures, and to require public disclosure of the sources of such contributions and expenditures.

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