Sunlight Weekly Roundup: Bernie Sanders calls Citizens United “a complete undermining of democracy”


In our continued effort to highlight the anniversary of January 2010’s Citizens United decision, all of this month’s weekly roundups will  take a look at what local bloggers across the country are saying about the ruling. Last week, we took a look at bloggers from the primary states. This week, we’ll be rounding up blogs from the East coast states, where many campaign donations derive.

  • Vermont State Senator Bernie Sanders has just proposed the “Saving American Democracy Amendment” aimed at overturning the Citizens United decision. In a statement, Sanders maintained, “There comes a time when an issue is so important that the only way to address it is by a constitutional amendment.” He called the court’s ruling “a complete undermining of democracy.” Sanders launched an online petition to garner support for the Amendment. Sanders is bringing the proposal before the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by  Senator Patrick Leahy. A Leahy spokesman said that while Leahy supports attempts to undo the damage of the Citizens United, he remains skeptical that the Senate will be able to gather the two-thirds super majority necessary to pass Sanders’ proposal. The issue appears to have gained local traction in Vermont; Ben & Jerry’s ice cream moguls Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield sponsored a well attended public forum to lend to gather public support for Sanders’ amendment. For more on this story, check out  Shay Totten’s post on Seven Days. 
  • In a tongue-in-cheek post for Maine’s  Seacoast Online, Don Cavarollo asks the question: if corporations are indeed people, what others rights should they receive?  He writes, “Based on the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, corporations now have unlimited free speech rights, the same as human beings do What has been bothering me is that in certain areas, humans have a few more rules to follow than corporations.” Since adult males have to sign up for the selective service to be eligible for loans and federal job training, he wonders if “all male corporations should sign up with the Selective Service to be eligible for government contracts, research grants or guaranteed loans.” If corporations are indeed people, he wonders if mergers between corporations could be considered legal marriage. He decides that if the government is treating corporations like people, then there should be no corporate tax rate, since corporation would be “just like the rest of us.” He even wonders whether one day a corporation will be elected president.
  • Public Citizen’s Aquene Freechild put an item on the Vermont Town Meeting ballots formally calling to amend the United States Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United ruling.  In a statewide conference call, Freechild maintained, “money is not free speech, and corperations are not people.” Rob Roper and Gerhad Meyer of True North Reports see it differently, arguing, “Money may or may not be ‘speech.’ But the First Amendment also protects each person’s rights to press (the right to freely print and distribute those opinions we speak), assembly (the right to freely organize ourselves into groups — as a corporation, perhaps), and the freedom, as individuals or as groups, to petition the government.”  In an effort to attract more conservatives to the anti-Citizens United campaign, Freechild is also making it clear that unions, as well as corporations, will also be barred from unlimited campaign contributions. Roper and Meyer remain unconvinced, calling Freechild’s claims about unions “hollow rhetoric” and pointing out that the Vermont resolution makes no mention of limiting unions, only corporations.
  • Joel Tyner attended a General Assembly at Occupy Poughkeepsie to discuss their upcoming action to urge the Dutchess County legislator to join Albany, New York City, Oakland, Los Angels, and Boulder in passing a resolution for a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United. According to Tyner, January 14th is deadline to get three other county legislators to sign on, “otherwise it won’t even be allowed … to even appear on February’s County Legislature Committee Day agenda.” In an update to his post, Tyner adds that Wappinger County  Legislator Francena Amparo has agreed to co-sponsor resolution. Tyner now needs two more co-sponsors by Friday at 5 PM. For more updates on this story, check out Tyner’s post on Dutchess Democracy .
Connect with other transparency bloggers in this Transparency Bloggers Google group   and see what others are doing in the transparency movement by joining this Citizens for Open Government Google Group.