We need a democracy that works for all.
But government of, by, and for the people is increasingly under attack by big money in politics. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), corporations and other groups can spend unlimited amounts of money to influence our elections, adding to the growing amounts spent by billionaires and other special interests.
To make matters worse, in Citizens United and other decisions, the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are entitled to the constitutional rights of people. Using this assertion, the court has struck down hundreds of local, state, and federal laws protecting our democracy, our health, and our safety.
That’s why Common Cause assembled the Democracy Amendment Coalition of Massachusetts (DACMA), a coalition of advocacy organizations and activists working to build support for a federal constitutional amendment affirming that:
- Corporations do not have the same constitutional rights as people.
- Congress and the states can limit political spending in elections.
The coalition and its allies were dedicated to creating meaningful and long-term change to reform an electoral system that appears more responsive to “we the donors” than to “We the People.”
DACMA launched the Democracy Amendment campaign to amend the U.S. Constitution so that corporate spending on politics and the power it generates could be controlled. The coalition sought to pass local resolutions at town meetings, town councils, and city councils, meet with Congressional members to urge them to sponsor amendments in the 114th Congress, and use social media and traditional media to raise awareness and educate voters about the need for a constitutional amendment.
The campaign also centered around an initiative to get the following question onto local ballots in the 2012 election:
“Should the legislator from this district be instructed to vote for a resolution calling on Congress to propose a constitutional amendment specifying that corporations are not entitled to the constitutional rights of humans, and that both Congress and the states may limit political contributions and spending?”
On November 6, 2012 nearly 800,000 voters in Massachusetts overwhelmingly called for a constitutional amendment to place limits on political spending and clarify that corporations do not have the same constitutional rights as individuals. The call for a constitutional amendment by ballot question echoed a similar call by the state legislature earlier that year.
The question won by large margins in every one of the 173 cities and towns that voted on it. The bipartisan support transcended divides, with voters from ruby red towns and deep blue cities supporting our proposed amendment.
The people of Massachusetts have sent a strong message to our elected leaders to get to work on a constitutional amendment that restores a government for the people, not for corporations. We plan to build on this success by getting even more jurisdictions on record in support and continuing to press Congress to act.
Additionally, Common Cause is continuing the fight to keep big money out of politics in the Massachusetts court system. On February 24, 2015, the Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit to overturn the Commonwealth’s ban on corporate contributions to political candidates. Common Cause opposed their claim, and the Suffolk Superior Court agreed with our stance. Now the Goldwater Institute has appealed to the state’s Supreme Judicial Court, and we have filed an amicus brief in the case, known as 1A Auto, Inc. v. Sullivan, about the dangers of corporate spending in elections.