Why We Need a Statewide Referendum to Help Overturn Citizens United

WDC supports Rep. Subeck’s and Sen. Hansen’s bills

Posted: April 19, 2017
Updated: June 8, 2017

Rep. Lisa Subeck
Rep. Lisa Subeck

Madison —The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign wholeheartedly supports Assembly Joint Resolution 53 and Senate Joint Resolution 54 proposed by Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) and Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) to curb the poisonous power of money in our political system.

Their proposal calls for a statewide referendum asking the citizens of Wisconsin whether they favor amending the U.S. Constitution to declare that corporations are not persons and that money is not speech.

“Such an amendment is crucial if we are to have a real democracy in America, and not a plutocracy,” said Matt Rothschild, the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. “The political arena has become a sandbox for the super-rich and the corporations to play in, and it’s practically fenced off to the rest of us.”

Senator Dave Hansen
Sen. Dave Hansen

Rothschild noted that the percentage of the U.S. population that gives $200 or more to political candidates is 0.5 percent. And the percentage that gives the maximum $2,700 to the presidential candidate of their choice is 0.08 percent, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Rothschild said that this amendment is necessary not only to overturn Citizens United, the horrendous U.S. Supreme Court decision of 2010 that allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to elect candidates of their choice. It is also needed to knock down more than 130 years of bad precedent, dating back to the 1886 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Santa Clara County vs Southern Pacific Railroad, which was the first decision that said corporations are persons.

“It’s foolish to hope for, and wait for, a more enlightened Supreme Court in the future to see the error of its ways,” said Rothschild. “The fundamental cure is to amend the U.S. Constitution. Fortunately, there is a large mass movement in favor of doing so, and the citizens of Wisconsin are in the lead, with more communities on board than any other state except Massachusetts. Now we need the state as a whole to endorse this referendum, which would pressure our elected officials in Washington to pass the amendment and send it back to the states for ratification.”