Sunlight Weekly Roundup: Thanks to Citizens United, Americans “don’t think the government works for them anymore”


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

  • San Francisco’s Political Blotter covered Common Causes’ Amend 2012 campaign to reverse the Citizens United ruling. According to  Josh Richman of Political Blotter, “A constitutional amendment will take years to pass, coming far too late to stem the tide of money that’s already flooding this year’s election, but organizers say this effort at least will give outraged voters a voice and inject the issue into November’s vote, forcing candidates to take a position on it.” The campaign’s initial drive for petition signatures will focus on Colorado, Montana and Massachusetts; that might expand to Arizona, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio and Washington. Common Cause President Bob Edgar said Americans “have lost faith in Washington, they don’t think the government works for them anymore.”
  • Despite 2010’s Citizens United ruling, Montana state courts upheld the state’s law banning corporate spending. According to the court, laws burdening such speech are subject to strict scrutiny, which requires the Government to prove that the restriction “furthers a compelling interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.” Opponents of Citizens United in Montana worry that a large influx of corporate money has the potential to alter the course of elections and politics in the state. A former house representative maintained that, “Montana, with its small population, enjoys political campaigns marked by person-to-person contact and a low cost of advertising as compared to other states.” For the whole story, check out Patrick Genova’s post on State of Elections.
  • California Assembly member Julia Brownley has introduced a bill requiring that corporate entities making political donations disclose those contributions. The California Disclose Act, AB 1148 deals specifically with accountability in election campaign ads and would force corporate sponsors “to step out from behind cryptic political action committee (PAC) names when they fund political advertisements.” “Currently, the top two donors must be disclosed on political ads, usually behind meaningless campaign committee ads. We hope to really pierce through the committee names to the top three donors behind ballot measure expenditure campaigns,” said Michelle Romero, manager of the Our Democracy voting reform initiative at the Greenlining Institute, which is supporting the legislation. Romero wants political ads to disclose the corporations behind donors, in addition to the donors names.  “Instead of saying, ‘This ad was paid for by the Committee for Responsible California,’ the ad would list the logos and names of top donors,” said Romero. “For example: the donors are Chevron, Comcast, etc.” For more on this story, see Lisa Carmack’s post on the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
  • Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley released a statement outlining his opposition of the Citizens United this week. Merkley rails against unlimited corporate influence in elections, saying, “Our nation is unique in world history in that it was founded on the simple idea that the people are in charge. However, our legacy of democracy is threatened by this Supreme Court decision that allows corporations unlimited secret spending to influence elections.” He continues, “As we’ve seen dramatically in the Republican presidential primaries, the massive amount of money flowing into our elections by super PACs is swamping the airwaves and altering outcomes.  Every person should have a right to their say – that’s the beauty of the First Amendment.  But corporations are not people, they are legal entities created by our laws to foster commerce.” To read his entire take on Citizens United, check out Mark Bogart’s post on Baker Quick News.
    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.