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U.S. PIRG marks the 10th anniversary of Citizens United

For Immediate Release

Today, U.S. PIRG marks the ten year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s misguided Citizens United decision.

The Citizens United decision declared that money is speech and corporations are people. As a result, we now live in the world of Super PACs, “dark money,” and pathways to unlimited campaign contributions by individuals and corporations. This is an anniversary worth remembering, but not one worth celebrating.

The decision has led directly  to billions of dollars of outside spending in elections. This big money has drowned out the voices of everyday people. The vast majority of Americans will never be able to spend the kind of money a corporation or a billionaire can to influence an election.  In a democracy founded on the principle of one person, one vote, the size of your wallet should not determine the size of your voice.

To fix this, we must amend the Constitution. And, if there is a silver lining to Citizens United, it is the surge of communities across the country working to reinvigorate our democracy.  So far, 20 states and over 800 other communities in red, blue and purple states have called for an amendment to the constitution to overturn Citizens United. 

Even in these hyper-partisan times, support for an amendment isn’t limited to any one political party. A recent poll shows that a full 78 percent of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents support overturning Citizens United. The New York Times shows that 85% of Americans believe our country’s campaign finance system needs fundamental changes or must be completely rebuilt.  

And while the long fight for constitutional amendment rolls on, communities are also seizing the immediate opportunities for reform. For example, cities like Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Denver have established small donor empowerment programs that give regular voters a fair voice in our elections by encouraging candidates to raise funds from small donors. These programs help to reorient our politics away from big money and towards everyday people.

On the tenth anniversary of Citizens United, we have reason to be optimistic. Americans overwhelmingly support amending the constitution and progress can be made even while Citizens United  remains the law of the land. There are opportunities for real reform at every level of government. We can use the tools of our democracy to return power to the American people.

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