For as long as I can remember, the amount of money involved in politics has been an issue. Even before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, there was ‘soft money’ for campaigns from the political parties.
However, the landmark decision in Citizens United didn’t just change the rules of the game – it fundamentally changed the game.
Citizens United gave individuals the ability to donate unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns. The ruling also gave corporations the same rights as people, therefor allowing corporations to donate unlimited funds. The worst part of the Citizens United ruling is how it allowed donors to remain essentially anonymous. Billionaires like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson could literally donate a billion dollars without anyone knowing. This would be true if they did not tell everyone they did it.
We all agree that money is power in politics. In political campaigns, money is everything – that is why the day after each election, they start begging for money for the next election. Money allows you to buy airtime on TV and radio. Money allows candidates to send out post cards to every person in their district (my friends at the USPS thank you for that, by the way). Without money, candidates cannot even get their names out there to the people. Money is everything in a campaign.
Once again, we are at the point where we need to reform our political contribution system. The money in politics is giving more weight to the corporations and lobbying groups than the actual people that candidates are elected to represent. Take the recent Senate vote on common sense gun reforms and universal background checks. Many of the Senators who opposed background checks are also in tight with the NRA, who is a massive lobbying group for the gun manufacturers. Even though between 80-90% of Americans believe that we should have universal background checks on all gun sales, 46 US Senators voted it down. Why? Because they do not want to lose the financial backing, or face the wrath of the uber-rich NRA.
We must fix this system, or our democracy will completely fall apart. This is why New Hampshire Legislators have introduced HCR2. HCR2 is a resolution urging US Congress to amend the US Constitution to overturn Citizens United. Simple, right?
In a recent UNH poll, 72% of Granite Staters believed this we should overturn Citizens United. This is 72% of all Granite Staters – Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike.
“These numbers make it clear that the political will exists to reclaim democracy from corporate and special interest spending – in New Hampshire and around the country,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president of People For the American Way. “Voters across the state are speaking out to insist that our democracy is truly of, by and for the people.”
So why haven’t you heard about this resolution? Because it has no chance of even being debated in the NH Senate right now. Recently Senate President Peter Bragdon changed the rules of the Senate to say that a ‘super majority’ would be required before the Senate would even consider House resolutions. If this sounds vaguely familiar and highly dysfunctional, think: US Senate Filibuster on a smaller scale. This change means that the NH Senate is not even going to discuss the resolution.
“New Hampshire voters, like most Americans, are fed up with the Citizens United anything-goes approach to money in politics. Six in 10 New Hampshire Republicans, nearly three out of four independents, and nearly eight in 10 Democrats support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. That’s why 10 Republican Representatives joined Democrats in passing HCR2 at the state House last month, and why the state Senate should now also heed the will of the voters,” said Peter Schurman, campaign director at Free Speech For People.
These Senators are elected to represent us. When the people overwhelmingly agree that this needs to change, something should change. The Senate should stop hiding behind this arbitrary parliamentary rule. Bring the resolution to the floor and let’s discuss it.
Jonah Minkoff-Zern, senior organizer of Democracy Is For People at Public Citizen sums it up perfectly:
“The only question is: Are the politicians ready to follow the will of the people, rather than the giant campaign spenders?”