Fifty Activist Groups Call for Congressional Hearings on Citizens United

Human Rights

Fifty organizations presented letters to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on Tuesday requesting hearings this year on the need to amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that opened the floodgates for unlimited independent campaign spending and gave rise to the infamous Super PAC.

So far in the 112th Congress, lawmakers have introduced 13 constitutional amendment resolutions of varying scope, and dozens more have been introduced in state legislatures. Hearings in the Judiciary Committees would be the next step in moving Congress toward proposing an amendment.

The letter comes just weeks after 350 events, protests and teach-ins in communities across the country gave shape  to a mass movement to overturn Citizens United.

"As activists have mobilized and protested across the country," the letter states, "it is time for Congress to explore in earnest the range of resolutions that have been introduced to undo the harmful effects of the court's decision."

The letter contends that Congress could mitigate effects of Citizens United with disclosure legislation, but only an amendment will allow the public to regulate corporate influence in elections.

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruled that independent spending on political speech by corporations and unions is protected under the First Amendment, making restrictions on that spending unconstitutional. Corporations often donate to front groups and Super PACs to conceal their political spending and support for specific candidates.

The 2012 campaign season is expected to be the most expensive ever. Super PACs supporting presidential candidates have already spent $46.7 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The letter is part of the top-down effort by activist groups to challenge Citizens United in Washington, DC.  Grassroots efforts to amend the Constitution are also gaining steam across the country. Click here to check out Truthout's analysis of Amend 2012 and Move to Amend, two coalitions using grassroots democracy to push for an amendment from the bottom-up. 

Amending the Constitution is not an easy task, but proponents say there could be enough public support. A recent poll shows that 62 percent of voters oppose the Citizens United decision and 46 percent strongly oppose it. More than half of those polled said they would support a constitutional amendment to reverse the ruling.

Signatories to the letters include People For the American Way, Public Citizen, Common Cause,, Free Speech For People, Move to Amend and African American Ministers In Action.

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