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Billionaires Are Buying Our Democracy
         Part 2               PDF of Billionaires Are Buying Our Democracy

Unless the Supreme Court decides to rescind its decision, the only way to overturn Citizens United is through an amendment to the Constitution. Sixteen states, the District of Columbia and almost 600 cities and towns have passed resolutions calling for such an amendment. In 2012, President Obama told the Reddit website, “I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United.” In September, 54 U.S. senators voted for such an amendment, short of the 60 votes needed to end debate and force a vote.

Article V of the US Constitution defines two ways to amend the Constitution. One is for Congress, by a two‑thirds vote in each chamber, to propose an amendment that is then ratified by three‑quarters of the states. The second way is for two‑thirds of the states to call for a Constitutional Convention to propose an amendment that is then ratified by three‑quarters of the states. A Constitutional Convention would be made up of delegates from each state. All twenty‑seven of the amendments to the Constitution were initiated by Congress. None have been enacted using the Constitutional Convention process. One purpose of calling for a Constitutional Convention is to pressure Congress to resolve the issue by initiating an amendment themselves. Some attempts to call a convention have pressured Congress into initiating the desired amendment when the count of states is getting close to the required number. In the past 11 months, four states, Vermont, California, Illinois and New Jersey, have made an official call for a Convention to address concerns raised by Citizens United.

In 2013, the Maine Legislature passed one of many resolutions memorializing Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to reverse the ruling in Citizens United v. FEC. Although the resolutions are official state legislation, they are in the form of requests rather than of applications, and do not count toward the two‑thirds of states needed to call for a constitutional convention. At that point a group of Maine citizens started We The People Maine, the purpose of which was to gather signatures on a citizen initiative petition to the Legislature that says Corporations are Not People and Money is Not Speech. If enough signatures were gathered the Legislature could do one of two things: It could notify the U.S. Congress that the State of Maine is calling for an amendment to the Constitution or, if the Legislature is not willing to do that, a We The People Maine Referendum would place the question on the ballot for Maine voters to consider.

By the end of the year more than 400 volunteers helped spread the word about this effort and had collected over 35,000 signatures, more than half the number required, from voters in every county in the state. With time running out on the petition, We The People Maine folks have decided to back the We The People Maine (WTPM) initiative in the State Legislature, which may go to a hearing later this session. This is an opportunity for citizens concerned about the disproportionate power of corporations to inform and advise legislators through personal contact and at any public hearing on the resolutions.

Many national groups are involved in the fight against Citizens United, among them Move to Amend, Public Citizen, Demos, Common Cause, Free Speech for People and the Program on Corporations Law and Democracy. We need to inform ourselves about their stand and join the fight to preserve our democracy.


Read Part 1



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