Citizen’s United amendment

Dear Will,

I searched the site but didn’t see your support for the Constitutional amendment resolution to overturn Citizen’s United.  Just wanted to make sure you are supporting this and to be aware of the Judiciary committee vote.  Is there any concern that this may not pass out of the committee?  I have spoken with Sen. Donnelly and know he is supporting this.  Thanks!

The crucial day for our campaign in Massachusetts is just over a week away.  The State Senate’s Judiciary Committee will be considering our bill calling for an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to over-rule Citizens United, on Tuesday, February 28th.

As you know, Attorney General Martha Coakley and State Senate President Therese Murray have announced their support for our bill, known as Resolution S772.  So our chances of passage in the full Senate are excellent, if we can clear the hurdle of the Judiciary Committee.

5 replies on “Citizen’s United amendment”

  1. HI Colleen,

    I am definitely concerned about the influence of money in politics, but I haven’t come to a conviction on what the right response is. Some of the most egregious examples of sudden money swaying elections over the past few months have involved billionaire individuals, not corporations. I don’t believe that the resolution really addresses those examples. I’m also not sure how to address them — I do feel that free speech is a fundamental value.

    I do know for sure that I strongly favor robust disclosure requirements.

    It’s an important conversation that I hope to give increasing attention to.


  2. Will, a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizen’s United ruling would not solve all the problems of money buying elections elected officials, but it would be a start. Corporations and billionaires can buy a lot more free speech than 99% of Americans can. We need to level the playing field by making sure we all have relatively equal access to free speech. One solution, though I don’t know how it would be worded, would be a constitutional amendment at the federal level and state laws or constitutional amendments at the state level that would make all elections 100% publicly financed. Then the only people with “influence” would be tax payers. While it would raise our taxes in the short run, in the long run I bet our taxes would go down when our tax dollars stopped subsidizing those who need no subsidies.

    1. This is really a hard one for me, Mike. I’m not sure what I think we should be doing in response to Citizens United.

      It’s not enough to say that we want to level the playing field. That idea takes one to places we certainly don’t want to go. What do you think about people like Lady Gaga and Curt Schilling who have more influence than 99.99% of Americans — should we be doing something to limit their political speech? For that matter, should we be doing something to limit the speech of the editors of the Boston Globe or the commentators on Fox News, who also, by virtue of their accumulated media power have greater ability to shape opinion than 99.99% of Americans? And would our views on that change if the Exxon purchased the Globe? Or, going the other way, since Apple and Google are becoming media companies — in the loose sense that they are important filterers of information — should their speech be specially protected more than that of Intel which has no direct influence on content?

      First Amendment jurisprudence is complicated. We limit the free speech rights of prisoners and students and civil servants and others who are subject to special government jurisdiction — perhaps notably, we allow the closing debate by 2/3 vote on occasion in legislative bodies. And some of those limits are probably OK. So, there are no absolutes. But it’s not easy to know where to draw the lines.

  3. A major problem with any advertisement is the opportunity to mislead, or lie to, the audience. Candidates need to approve, and therefore be held responsible for, the content of their ads. Could it be mandatory that all political ads post independent sources, to allow the public to check the facts presented? This may, to some extent, increase ethical behavior without decreasing rights.

  4. This might be hard to enforce — what constitutes a good independent source would always be the question. I think at some point, it would require government selection of the sources and that is a free speech concern.

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