Fighting Citizens United: What Can Be Done?
Since 1970, Common Cause has fought hard to reduce the influence of money in politics. We have scored many victories – including passing the first federal campaign contribution and spending limits in US history.
Unfortunately, a series of disastrous Supreme Court cases – most notably Citizens United v. FEC – have stripped away restrictions on political spending. The result is a system dominated by “nonprofit” organizations whose donors are kept secret – as well as Super PACS who spend unlimited amounts of money to influence our elections.
Recently, there have been calls to address this problem through an Article V Constitutional Convention. Proponents of this approach insist that the U.S. Constitution can be “opened up” to insert new laws on campaign finance reform.
While this may sound good in theory, it is simply too risky. And we’re not the only ones who think this way – a host of Supreme Court justices, constitutional scholars, and other legal experts have expressed grave concerns about an Article V Convention.
However, the question remains: how can we fix our broken campaign finance system?
Here are a few ways:
Across the country, we are working on local and state campaigns to build public funding programs from the ground up. Citizen-funded elections reduce the influence of special interests in our political system by incentivizing candidates to engage average citizens in their communities – instead of relying on a handful of wealthy donors to fund their campaigns.
CONTRIBUTION LIMITS & RESTRICTIONS
We are fighting hard to place common-sense limitations on money in our elections.
Colorado has some of the lowest contribution limits for state campaigns in the country. We have fought for – and won – a ban on direct contributions from corporations and labor unions to state candidate campaigns. Now we’re working to expand these restrictions to local campaigns.
REDUCING THE INFLUENCE OF SPECIAL INTERESTS
In 2006, we helped write and pass an amendment to the Colorado Constitution prohibiting lobbyists from giving any money or gifts to state legislators. This law also placed a two-year restriction on Colorado legislators seeking to become lobbyists after they leave public office – preventing the “revolving door” between the public and private sectors. We are working on passing a similar bill this legislative session.
TRANSPARENCY & DISCLOSURE
Colorado has some of the strongest campaign finance disclosure laws in the country – and we are working to make them better every year.
Our recent work with Denver City Council improved reporting for independent expenditures—and established fines for those who do not comply. The next step is to shed light on the dark money groups operating in Colorado–who can hide the identity of their donors.
PASSING AN AMENDMENT THROUGH THE NORMAL RATIFICATION PROCESS
Although we do not support an Article V convention, we DO believe that we need a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.
That’s why we led the campaign to demand that our leaders in Congress endorse an amendment to overturn Citizens United and similar Supreme Court decisions. This ballot initiative overwhelmingly passed in every county in Colorado, winning 75% of the total vote.
Like any other significant reform, our campaign finance system cannot be fixed overnight.
These reforms are built from the ground up – by working with activists, community leaders, and a diverse coalition of organizations. It does not happen from bullying, finger pointing, and demonizing anyone who gets in our way.
We hope that you will join us as we continue to make strategic, substantial, long-term campaign finance reform at all levels of government.