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Liberal Congressmen and Senators Make Case For Overturning Citizens United

At a Washington, D.C. gathering, more than a dozen lawmakers call for action to overturn Citizens United.

The grassroots movement for a constitutional amendment to return control over our democracy to We the People got a big endorsement from more than a dozen members of Congress on Wednesday. 

The "Congressional Summit on Overturning  Citizens United ," convened by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) at the Capitol,  spotlighted the growing movement  to overturn  Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission  and other egregious Supreme Court rulings that go against core constitutional and democratic principles.

Lurking somewhere in the crowd, but live-tweeting from an alternate universe not inhabited by the overwhelming majority of the American people, Citizens United head honcho  David Bossie  dismissed these leaders and grassroots advocates as "clowns" and "socialists" who want to "chill speech."

Back in the reality where money is property and not speech, and unlimited political spending by corporations and the super-wealthy to buy influence and access  is antithetical to First Amendment values, today's event was a breath of fresh air in a Capitol where large corporations and wealthy interests dominate the conversation all too often.

Instead, we heard the voices of concerned Americans like Georgina Forbes of  Vermont. She described how people from all walks of life, Democrat and Republican and Independent alike, organized so that citizens at more than 65 town meetings throughout her state would  simultaneously demand  a constitutional amendment based on the principles that corporations are not people and money is not speech. Last week, the Vermont Senate followed suit in a similar fashion. What's more, the legislatures of New Mexico, Maryland and Hawaii also have announced their support for an amendment, and similar efforts are under way in more than 17 other states.

Responding to these citizen-led efforts and to  thousands of demonstrations nationwid e that took place in January (on the two-year anniversary of  Citizens United) , members of Congress from both chambers today lined up to join state and local elected officials, grassroots activists like Georgina, and diverse pro-democracy organizations in  signing a Declaration for Democracy  in support of these kinds of constitutional amendment efforts.

With Americans  continuing to agree  by more than a 3-to-1 margin that unlimited spending in elections by corporations and the super-rich is bad for democracy, and supporting amending the U.S. Constitution by similar wide margins, these supportive voices in Congress are just responding to the will of the people in one sense. But in a system where those with money and power are allowed to game the process, it takes true leadership to stand up to that rising tide at its peak. The dozen-plus individuals attending today's event have exhibited that leadership and deserve our continued thanks and encouragement.

Many of them, as well as the entire 76-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, are actively supporting  Resolutions Week,  a nationwide initiative spearheaded by Public Citizen in partnership with other organizations, aimed at passing still more local resolutions that call for a constitutional amendment the week of June 11. More than 5,400 people in all 50 states have signed up to push local resolutions, hoping to join the hundreds of municipalities that have taken action so far.

Also on board are both labor  and business leaders, united by the recognition that a political system where only a handful of large corporations can dominate and corrupt the process is bad for workers' rights and bad for fostering actual business competition. Selling access to the highest bidder reverberates negatively whether you're a member of the Communications Workers of America trying to organize for better wages, or summit speaker Rudy Arredondo, who represents Latino ranchers and farmers, whose voices all too often are drowned out by campaign-cash-flush agribusiness interests.