NASHUA, NH — The “Democracy for All Amendment” failed on a procedural vote today in the US Senate, but not before a dozen New Hampshire activists made one more attempt to get Senator Kelly Ayotte to support overturning the US SupremeCourt’s “Citizens United” decision.
“Corporations are not people. They should not control our political process,” Representative Sylvia Gale of Nashua said to the group assembled at City Hall Plaza at 9 am this morning.
The group was small, but they are part of a large movement of people concerned that “corporate people” and the wealthiest Americans have the legal ability to drown out competing voices in the political process.
“I don’t have a lot of money and I want my voice to be heard,” explained Fred Robinson, who drove to Nashua from Goffstown to participate.
“Democracy should work for people,” offered Dr. Thabile Mnisi-Misibi, an ANC member visiting from South Africa.
The contingent of 13 people walked with signs and chants through the downtown district to the Senator’s office. There, they delivered a petition with 12,000 New Hampshire names calling on Senator Ayotte to support the constitutional change.
“This is an issue for all of New Hampshire, and Senator Ayotte needs to get involved,” said Dan Weeks of the Coalition for Open Democracy, the group which led the organizing of today’s action.
Weeks handed the petitions and supporting material to Simon Thomson, an aide to Senator Ayotte, who met the group on the sidewalk outside her office.
A similar action took place last week at Senator Ayotte’s Portsmouth office.
Ayotte voted Monday for a motion that allowed consideration of the amendment to go forward, but today joined her GOP colleagues voting against ending debate, thereby blocking the measure from an up or down vote on its merits. New Hampshire’s other Senator, Jeanne Shaheen, was a co-sponsor of the amendment proposal.
The notion that the Supreme Court believes corporations are people, that money is speech, and that therefore corporations can spend without limits to affect election campaigns has provoked a reaction expressed through petitions, resolutions, and proposals for constitutional change. SJ Resolution 19, the proposal defeated today in the US Senate, is just one of a couple dozen advanced by members of Congress in response to Citizens United. Some groups, such as Move To Amend, have made it clear they think it doesn’t go far enough to reverse corporate constitutional rights. But it was the only proposal likely to get considered in the foreseeable future, so many groups calling for constitutional change were on board.
Writing in his blog at The Nation earlier this week, John Nichols said:
The amendment that is being considered is a consequential, if relatively constrained, proposal, which focuses on core money in political concerns but which does not go as far as many Americans would like when it comes to establishing that money is not speech, corporations are not people and elections should not be up for sale to the highest bidder.
Yet it is difficult to underestimate the importance of the debate that will unfold this week. The debate signals that a grassroots movement has established the rational response to a political crisis created by US Supreme Court rulings (including, but certainly not exclusively, the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions) that have opened the floodgates for domination of political debates by billionaire campaign donors and corporate cash.
No one expected the amendment to get the two-thirds vote it would need to pass or get a vote at all in John Boehner’s House of Representatives. But the fact that any vote took place is evidence of a significant expression of public sentiment that the“Citizens United” decision did serious damage to fundamental issues. The questions now are whether the movement will grow or fizzle, and whether the pro-amendment groups will intensify their demands for more aggressive language or head down the familiar road of further compromise. A decision to water down the language in hopes of gaining votes at this point would be a huge mistake.
“Constitutional amendments become viable when support for them grows so overwhelming that traditional partisan and ideological boundaries are broken,” wrote Nichols, who will speak at an AFSC dinner in Concord on September 27. “When this happens, the divide becomes less a matter of Republican versus Democrat or left versus right and more a matter of a broken present versus a functional future.”