Common Cause Oregon Comment on Citizens United-Reform Still Possible in Oregon and Portland Leads the Way

For Immediate Release: January 21, 2010

Contact: Janice Thompson, 503-283-1922

Common Cause Oregon Comment on Citizens United; Reform Still Possible in Oregon and Portland Leads the Way

The Supreme Court of the United States handed down a decision today that will enhance the ability of the our country’s wealthiest special interests to influence elections. By overturning a ban on independent expenditures by corporate entities, the doors have been opened for unlimited corporate and union spending in elections.

“The Roberts court today made a bad situation worse,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “This decision allows Wall Street to tap its vast corporate profits to drown out the voice of the public in our democracy.”

“The path from here is clear: Congress must free itself from Wall Street’s grip so Main Street can finally get a fair shake,” Edgar continued. “We need to change the way America pays for elections. Passing the Fair Elections Now Act would give us the best Congress money can’t buy.”

The Fair Elections Now Act (S.752 and H.R. 1826) was introduced by Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (D-Conn.). In the House, the bipartisan bill has attracted 125 additional cosponsors. Both bills blend small donor fundraising with public funding to reduce the pressure of fundraising from big contributors.

Common Cause Oregon applauds Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, and David Wu for signing on as co-sponsors of the Fair Elections Now Act and urges others in Oregon’s Congressional delegation to support this critical legislation.

Portland is a national leader, having already adopted public campaign financing. Due to Voter-Owned Elections, spending has been reduced in city elections and the importance of grassroots campaigns has increased. In 2008, Commissioner Amanda Fritz was elected using Portland’s reform program, becoming only the seventh woman to serve on the City Council.

Oregon has no limits on the source or size of contributions to independent electoral spending and is less affected by the Citizens United case than most other states. Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision does not overturn limits on contributions directly to federal candidates. Oregon does not have such limits and reform steps on that topic are not affected by this federal decision. “Oregonians should not think that reform in our state isn’t possible because of this U.S. Supreme Court decision,” said Janice Thompson, executive director of Common Cause Oregon. “There are Oregon constitutional concerns that our state Supreme Court has signaled in a recent decision that it may reconsider, so campaign finance reform is not dead in Oregon.”