Letter to the Editor: Time to end Citizen’s United ruling with a constitutional amendment

On Sept. 17, Americans celebrated Constitution Day, established by Congress to commemorate the date in 1787 when delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the U.S. Constitution. This convention followed years of bloody warfare when our countrymen had fought and died to win a Revolutionary War against tyranny and nonrepresentation. The resulting Constitution laid the foundation for, in the famous words of Abraham Lincoln, “ … a government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Ratification of the Constitution was just the beginning of the American experiment. Succeeding generations have amended the Constitution 27 times to create a more perfect union, expanding the promise of democracy to all citizens. Seven of the 17 amendments — 40% — adopted since the Bill of Rights have overturned misguided U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Two of the most notable of these were the 14th Amendment, which recognized the citizenship of African Americans, and the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

It is time, once again, for Americans to work together to amend the Constitution and overturn a series of recent Supreme Court rulings. The Supreme Court has ruled in Citizens United (2010) and related cases that corporations, unions and other artificial entities have the same rights as individual citizens, and that the spending of money in political campaigns is a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment. According to John Dunbar of the Center for Public Integrity, this ruling “ … gave corporations and unions the green light to spend unlimited sums on ads and other political tools, calling for the election or defeat of individual candidates.”

Special-interest money dominates our elections, drowns out the voices of voters and corrupts competitive free enterprise with pay-to-play crony capitalism.

To fix this, we need an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to:

• Ensure that “we the people” — not corporations, unions, special interests or wealthy individuals — govern the United States.

• Allow Congress and the states to put reasonable limits on political spending.

• Ensure that state and local elections are decided by voters, not by out-of-state donors.

Polling indicates that 75% of Americans — crossing party lines — are calling for an amendment that would reverse Citizens United Twenty states and more than 800 local governments have formally petitioned Congress to propose an amendment that would reverse Citizens United and restore our representative democracy.

American Promise, a nonpartisan organization working to advance such an amendment, has been asking political candidates to sign the American Promise Pledge to work “in effective ways, such as sponsoring or co-sponsoring bills, resolutions or other legislation advancing proposal or ratification of this amendment; voting in favor of such bills and resolutions in committee, subcommittee or floor votes; and publicly advocating for the necessity of this amendment.”

Isn’t it time that every candidate running for any office pledge to do everything in their power to restore our democracy to the citizens through the amendment process?

Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens as he was exiting the Constitutional Convention. They asked him what sort of government the delegates had created. It’s said his answer was: “A republic, if you can keep it.” His answer was short, but his meaning was clear: Democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people, but they are also dependent upon the constant attention and informed involvement of all citizens.

We shoyuld elect representatives who will work to reverse the disastrous Citizens United ruling and restore our democracy.

Judith Butler