The 2010 Supreme Court decision commonly referred to as Citizens United protected corporate rights to campaign spending. Now, there is a national effort to pass a constitutional amendment that would overturn that decision and address the influence of money in politics. Organizers in Massachusetts are beginning to gather signatures to place the amendment on the ballot, and Vermonter Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s fame is helping.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has certified a “People Govern, Not Money” initiative petition that establishes a citizens’ commission to advance a ballot initiative toward passing the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
American Promise President and former Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General Jeff Clements says the movement to pass the amendment is gaining momentum across the nation.
“The Supreme Court five to four said we don't have the right as Americans to enact limitations on election spending no matter how much money is pouring in or where it's pouring in from. And that's why we need a constitutional amendment to change that. The court is wrong. The vast majority of Americans who think they’re wrong and that we need a constitutional amendment to fix it are now getting to work. So this constitutional amendment movement to get big money out of politics is taking off not only in Massachusetts but around the country. We now have nineteen states on record calling for this amendment.”
Clements notes that the inclusion of a citizens’ commission in the initiative will be crucial to moving the effort forward in Massachusetts. “The ballot initiative process allows the voters of Massachusetts to have our say on this 28th Amendment. But it doesn't just do that. By creating a nonpartisan citizen commission it doesn't just end on Election Day when the ballot initiative passes, as we trust it will. This gives the people a voice on an ongoing basis to get truthful information about money and outside influence in our elections and truthful information about which of our elected officials are actually helping to get the amendment done and which are not.”
With the petition in Massachusetts certified, organizers must now gather 65,000 signatures by November 22 to place the initiative on the November 2018 ballot. They’ll be getting help from a well-known ice cream mogul and activist. Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen is on the advisory council of American Promise. He says the only way to fix the country’s broken political system is to get money out of politics. “This issue really of big money in politics is the root cause of I would say most of the problems that we're dealing with in terms of our country. You know essentially our country is run based on huge corporations and the ultra-wealthy bribing our so-called elected representatives to do whatever is good for their pocketbooks at the expense of everybody else. And in our country it's considered to be legal campaign donations.”
Cohen plans to be in the commonwealth in November collecting signatures to put the initiative on the ballot. “This movement to overturn Citizens United and finally bring our democracy back to the people the key to it is amending the Constitution. So I'm going down to Massachusetts because they are the latest front in the battle to pass this amendment and they're looking to do it by ballot initiative. And they need to collect a whole bunch of signatures. So I'm going down there to psych up the troops and to support all the volunteers that are going out and collecting these signatures to get it on the ballot.”