Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Story of Citizens United v. FEC

Last week Klickitat Democrat, Bob Hansen, hosted a house party to view the short (10 minutes!) film, "The Story of Citizens United v. FEC".

This film was created by the same folks at The Story of Stuff Project and describes the landmark case in which the U.S. Supreme Court decided that it is unconstitutional to limit how much money corporations can spend to influence elections.

Since the 2010 ruling, corporations have spent $300 million to influence election results. This money has been used to run ads and engage in other activities to sway us - the voters - to support candidates who serve the interests of those corporations.

Below you will find FAQs, a link to view the film, and a link to sign a petition to amend the constitution in order to overturn Citizens United v FEC and get the people back in charge of our democracy!

Q: What was the Citizens United v. FEC case about?

A: Citizens United is an organization that accepted corporate funding to produce a 90-minute movie attacking Hillary Clinton called "Hillary: The Movie." Shortly before the 2008 presidential elections, Citizens United wanted to air the movie as a video-on-demand, but was afraid the FEC would forbid them from doing so, because campaign finance rules prohibited TV attack ads funded by outside groups. Citizens United challenged the ban in court. Originally, the Citizens United v. FEC case involved a narrow, technical question about campaign finance law: Was a video-on-demand program enough like a TV ad that it should be prohibited from airing shortly before and elections? However, the Supreme Court expanded the case to consider a much broader question: Did decades of campaign finance rules violate the First Amendment?

Q: Wait, so Citizens United were the bad guys, with a name like Citizens United?

A: That's right! Citizens United is actually a conservative group that advocates pulling the United States out of the United Nations, cutting Social Security, stripping funding from public broadcasting, among other extremist positions. The group's name makes it sound like it's about democracy when actually it's about corporatocracy!

Q: What does the decision mean?

A: The ruling means that corporations can and are spending a ton of money to support or defeat particular candidates - at least $300 million during the 2010 midterm elections, and probably a LOT more in 2012.

What kinds of things do corporations want? They want to do away with laws that restrict their activities - laws that protect public health and safety, workers' rights, and clean air and water. For example, oil companies want to block laws that protect our climate; manufacturers want trade agreements that undermine product safety rules and enable corporations to ship jobs overseas. And big multinational corporations often seek subsidies and bailouts.

Q: Can't Congress overturn or fix the decision?

A: Congress cannot overturn the decision, because the decision is based on the constitutional protections of the First Amendment.

Q: What would a constitutional amendment do?

A: It would overturn the decision by establishing that corporations do not have the same First Amendment rights as individuals.

Q: Is amending the Constitution politically possible?

A: Yes. Amending the Constitution is supposed to be hard, and no one should be under any illusions about its difficulty. But it's an achievable goal, as the history of the Constitution makes clear. The 23rd and 26th Amendments (establishing voting rights for District of Columbia residents and setting the minimum voting age at 18 years old) were passed by Congress and ratified in under a year.

Click here to view the film

Click here to sign the petition

And finally, click here to link directly to the Story of Citizens United web site for more information