Feb. 9, 2012
BOSTON — Advocates and lawmakers gathered at the Massachusetts State House on Feb. 9 to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. That’s the 2010 ruling that allowed private groups to spend huge amounts of money on political campaigns with few restrictions.
Jeff Clements of the advocacy group Free Speech for People is leading a nationwide movement asking state legislatures across the country to pass resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment that would reverse Citizens United.
Clements acknowledged it was a lengthy process.
"To amend the Constitution we need a two-thirds vote in Congress and then it gets ratified by three-quarters of the states," he said. "But we don’t wait for Congress to do that — that has never worked before. We never would have had senators elected directly if we had waited for appointed senators to appoint a constitutional amendment. We never would have had women have the right to vote if we had waited for the all-male Congress to give women the right to vote.”
So far, Hawaii and Washington state have passed the resolution; last week it cleared New Mexico’s House of Representatives and is en route to the Senate there.
State Rep. Cory Atkins of Concord is sponsoring the resolution in the Massachusetts Legislature. “What we’re doing on local levels, we’re helping our communities pass resolutions at town meetings to require us at the state to pass a resolution to ask Congress to start the constitutional amendment process,” she explained.
Such resolutions could have little effect. But supporters said a number of members of Congress in both chambers have already proposed amendments to overturn Citizens United. And the issue is attracting more public concern in light of the Republican-leaning SuperPACs that are spending millions of dollars on ads this election season.
The Massachusetts resolution gets its first public hearing before the Judiciary Committee on Feb. 28.