Overturning Citizens United


Sen. Al Franken, who is wonderful, has moved beyond seeking more disclosure (which the Republicans won't accept) and is now moving toward a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. He's moving his petition everywhere, and it will get a lot of traction.

But as I've mentioned, overturning Citizens United isn't that easy. It's fine to say we want to do it, and an entirely different task to write the legislation and deal with all of the First Amendment ramifications. And it still won't stop rich people from spending their own money in unlimited ways.

I don't know; maybe we have to figure out some more creative solutions. Mandate that all candidates for president and US Senate accept only public financing and match all independent expenditure spending with more public money. And then go back to the "original intent" of the US Constitution: In 1800, each member of Congress represented about 12,000 people. That would work fine today -- expand the size of the House of Representatives to guarantee that at no point does any member have to seek election from a district with more than, say, 50,000 people. That's a number you can reach without big money (see: SF district elections). Do the same for every state Legislature. Yes, more money on government -- but less money in politics. I'll take the tradeoff.


As Paul Cienfuegos points out, single-issue advocacy -- whether you're battling the Keystone pipeline, the nuclear industry or what have you -- only addresses one corporate harm at a time. The latter are merely symptoms of we the people allowing corporations to exercise corporate constitutional rights. They have been winning these rights for over two centuries, almost entirely through the U.S. Supreme Court. But there is a movement in this country that has been building through the last decade, 150 communities throughout the U.S. and climbing, who are starting to pass legally-binding, locally-enforcable laws that reign in corporate constitutional rights -- in fact that prohibit corporations from exercising any of their constitutional rights: their free speech rights, their property rights, their contract rights, their search and seizure rights, their judicial rights, etc. Every one of these ordinances strips corporations of their constitutional rights, elevates the rights of the community above the so-called rights of the corporation, and bans all sorts of these single-issue corporate harms, which are normal and legal at the state level.

Best of all, this movement includes conservatives, liberals and progressives, tha is, people across the political spectrum. We, as Americans, need to understand that we are in an emergency situation in the United States. We are in an ecological crisis, an economic crisis, a social crisis, and that the kind of activism that we have been doing for nearly a century, is *not* working. We have more and more single-issue groups but the situation for all of us is getting worse. I applaud Al Franken for his effort (bravo!), however we all have to get involved in a mass movement to push back collectively against corporate constitutional rights. And we can start in our own communities.

Tim is calling for creative solutions. Those solutions are already happening at the community level across this country (mainly on the East Coast but the movement is spreading). That's the Community Rights Movement. The idea is that your community can identify the corporate harms that need to be challenged and stopped, not through begging and pleading but through passing locally-enforcable laws at the city or town or county level that do all these extraordinary things in a single law that you can pass through the ballot box or through an elected official's vote. Paul Cienfuegos is a leading organizer on the West Coast in this movement. To learn more, check his web site:


Posted by Ana Banana on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 4:06 pm

It's an impossible idea. With 350 million people in the US, that would mean the house would have 7,000 members. Do you ever think before you speak?

A constitutional amendment every time SCOTOS rules the way ou don't like? Well, that's almost as ridiculous as, say, a voter initiative for each new proposed apartment building. Oh, wait?

All you are really saying is that you are desparate to find a voting system that gives your ideas more power. Can#t blame you for that on the one hand but, you know that's self-serving, right?

Citizen's United gives more power to unions to influanece elections. You oppose that?

Posted by anon on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

They thought ranked choice voting would create more people power as defined by them. Public financing at the city level hasn't worked out for them either.

The goal is to claim to speak for the people while getting killed at elections, then trying to change the way elections are done in hopes of somehow coming up with the right formula that has the lowly peasants voting right.

Posted by matlock on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 5:03 pm

Or perhaps because unions hate level playing fields, and actually would prefer a more one-sided law, favouring them of course.

Posted by anon on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 7:54 am

corporations have way more money than labor unions to spend on elections.

Unions are short-sighted in their blind allegiance to the Democratic Party.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 8:52 am

you'd support the Citizens United rule?

So you don't have a problem with the principle at all?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 10:05 am

more into my comment than was there.

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 10:22 am

because corporations have more money than unions. Nobody forced you into that admission. You showed your true colors and bias all by yourself.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 11:21 am

I pointed out that corporations have more money than unions to spend on elections in response to a comment about an even playing field between the two types of organizations. I never expressed why I oppose Citizens United, so your inference that it is because corporations have more money than unions is way off base.

Do you enjoy baiting reasonable commenters by misrepresenting their comments or are you just dumb?

Posted by Eddie on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 11:38 am

That's how trolls roll. I asked one former labor progressive City Hall staffer what his thoughts were of a tradeoff where restricting corporate speech came with restricting union speech. He thought for a while and thought that it would be a very good trade.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 11:55 am

thought corporations could spend more. If it were the other way around, his view would be the exact opposite. That's why such a viewpoint has no integrity or principle to it, as previously noted.

Since corporations and unions are affected by election results but cannot vote, it's only fair we give them a voice some other way.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 12:31 pm

Unions have other ways to get the message out.

Corporations for example don't have ground forces that obey the leadership.

Posted by matlock on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 12:38 pm

Unions are organizations consisting of *people*!

Corporations have a few people controlling the shares... but hey, if there are corporations out there with such great brand loyalty, then they'll have people too.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 2:47 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 4:23 pm

Like the funds administered by the city of SF for the employees of the city and county of SF?

Posted by matlock on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 9:51 pm

"Unions are short-sighted in their blind allegiance to the Democratic Party."

Another version of that:

The Bay Guardian staff are short-sighted in their blind allegiance to the (misnamed) Democratic Party."

Posted by Guest on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

I kinda like the idea - little drones zipping around inside a huge cavernous space from lawmaker to lawmaker.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jan. 17, 2013 @ 5:45 pm

No to public financing of elections. Allow individuals only to donate, and to only donate to candidates. No corporate donations, no union donations, no PACs.

Posted by Richmondman on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 6:11 am

Americans like Richmondman who have thought this through and who are concerned about their representative democracy would be well advised to consider supporting the Renew Democracy Amendment proposal. It states:

"The right of the individual qualified citizen voter to participate in and directly elect all candidates by popular vote in all pertinent local, state, and federal elections shall not be denied or abridged and the right to vote is limited to individuals.

The right to contribute to political campaigns and political parties is held solely by individual citizens.

Political campaign and political party contributions shall not exceed an amount reasonably affordable by the average American.

The rights of all groups, associations and organizations to other political speech may be regulated by Congress but only as to volume and not content and only to protect the right of the individual voter’s voice to be heard."

The Renew Democracy Amendment would create a constitutional guarantee of the right to vote and directly elect all candidates for whom they were qualified to vote. It would eliminate the Electoral College and it would restore the power of the individual voter by requiring our representatives to be funded solely by the individual voter. The RDA would create a campaign funding system in which nearly any American could be a politician's largest donor and would break the finacial grip the parties have on our representatives. Read more at http://www.renewdemocracy.org and consider signing the wall to show your support for the nonpartisan and powerful amendment proposal.

Posted by Clevidence on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 8:54 am

the politicians that you just happen to support a greater chance of winning?

Got it.

Anyway, it has zero chance of passing.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 10:07 am

...already do??? They have established laws that make it possible for them to give money to the campaigns to get THEIR guy/gal elected? so you didn't like it when a mere peon wants the same options? Very interesting.

Posted by Nottaplecostomus on Jul. 21, 2013 @ 10:08 am

What Citizens United did was acknowledge that institutions have a right to participate in political and electoral debate as well.

And I use the word "institution" there very carefully because it doesn't just mean corporations. It also means unions and others who often oppose corporations.

The only exception I believe is non-profits and charities, who would lose their tax-exempt status if they have a political motive.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 21, 2013 @ 10:44 am

The Corporatocracy doesn't give a damn about petitions.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 18, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

While I applaud the hope and perseverence of one who chips away with a popsicle stick at the granite boulder crushing their legs, I also recognize its futility. Similarly, all of these suggestions are little band-aids on a system that is simply corrupt, anachronistic, and failed. Like trying to cure the cancer of an already-dead patient by spraying the tumors with Bactine.

Get this, everybody: We do not live in a democracy. We are, the great vast majority of us, wage slaves. We don't have any real say, and what little say we garner through these little referenda (and by "voting", LMFAO) is nothing but a placebo administered to us as a distraction. We work to serve the banking system and its subsidiary, the US Government. They hand us worthless paper that we, in our sheepish obedient turn, hand right back to them, with interest. We get nowhere. On average, we acquire no wealth in our lifetimes, and collectively accumulate only debt. Even the "American Dream" of home ownership is a myth. On average, we don't own homes. Banks and landlords own homes. After you pay off your home (with payments totalling more than twice what it was actually worth) in 30 years, you generally die, or move into assisted living or hospice care. And your house goes back on the market, and another mortgage loan is taken out. And so on. This is because the system is designed this way.

The sources of all of the problems being addressed here, and by Mr. Franken, are the monetary system, the Federal Reserve Bank, and the ridiculous, outdated, unfair capitalist machine that robs the average citizen to feed the rich. Sadly, Mr. Average Citizen doesn't even understand how that system works, because the capitalist establishment has taken charge of educating the citizens. And nowhere in any school curriculum will you find the words, "The Federal Reserve Bank is a private corporation owned by a small group of powerful banking families."

The Fed has to go. And so does "legal tender". And so do "property rights". It is an outdated system invented by ancient barbarians, and unnecessary in the age of science and technology. It is time to reallocate the resources of this earth, in a fair and equal way. The earth and all its contents (oil, natural gas, minerals, metals, water, air) belong to everyone. The oil under our feet doesn't belong to the Rockefeller family. It belongs to everyone. A government "by the people, for the people" would recognize that as irrefutable.

But, we do not have a government "for the people". It's a government "for the rich people." That's understandable, of course... the people who set the system up were rich people.

It's time to stop worshipping Thor, everybody. We have figured out he's not real! It's time to rebuild our system at the very roots. When the roots are rotten, you can't rescue the leaves.

Shut down the Fed!!!!

Posted by Guest on Feb. 08, 2013 @ 2:43 pm