WASHINGTON – January 17 – Citizens will gather across the country this week to demand an end to the combined threat to our democracy of unlimited corporate spending in elections and voter suppression.
These events are part of a nationwide day of action called Money Out/Voters In taking place on and around the weekend of Jan. 19. Activists in more than 75 towns and cities will rally to demand that lawmakers pass measures that limit the corrosive influence of money in politics and expand democratic participation at the polls. Money Out/Voters In is made up of a broad coalition of groups including Public Citizen, NAACP, U.S. PIRG, Common Cause, MoveOn, Organic Consumers Association, League of United Latin American Citizens, Hip Hop Caucus and many more.
“At the same time we’ve seen record amounts of unaccountable corporate money spent on elections, we’ve also seen a deliberate attack on the rights of voters to participate in our democracy,” said Aquene Freechild, senior organizer for Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People campaign. “Having so many diverse groups involved in this week’s events shows how crucial this fight is.”
In addition to being on the eve of the presidential inauguration, the weekend of Jan. 19 precedes the third anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision and Martin Luther King Jr. Day — both on Jan. 21.
– Annapolis, Md. — U.S. Reps. John Sarbanes and Chris Van Hollen will attend a rally and address local advocates who worked to make Maryland one of the first states to call for a constitutional amendment.
– Richmond, Calif. — Community members will hold a rally with speakers and entertainment outside the Chevron refinery, and will make a human billboard. The rally is to protest more than $3.5 million in political spending by Chevron, including $1 million injected into the local city council race.
– Chicago, Ill. — Elected officials will join members of the labor, democracy and civil rights communities at a rally to call for transparency and limits on spending in elections and voting rights for all citizens. Illinois PIRG also will release a report on spending in the last election.
– New York City — Mark Green, former New York City public advocate, will speak at a rally with the Rev. James Forbes; Jeff Clements, author of “Corporations Are Not People”; and Shirley Adelbo, executive vice president of SEIU 32BJ Hospital Workers Union at NYU’s Kimmel Center. The rally will be followed by a “holy matrimony” ceremony between a person and a corporation.
– Austin, Texas — Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office, will join leaders from the NAACP, AFL-CIO, Common Cause and Occupy at a rally on the south steps of the Capitol.
These actions come as the country is witnessing a groundswell of grassroots support for improving our democracy. On Election Day, voters in Montana, Colorado, Chicago, San Francisco and dozens of towns in Massachusetts overwhelmingly backed initiatives that called on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. So far, 11 states and more than 350 communities have formally called for an amendment. In addition, nearly 100 current members of Congress have expressed support for an amendment, as has President Barack Obama.
“The 2012 election — only the second post-Citizens United election — was the most expensive ever, saw more outside money spent than ever, had more secret, Dark Money spent than ever, and subjected voters to unprecedented negative, attack advertising. We can’t keep going in this direction and maintain a functioning democracy,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “As this week’s actions demonstrate, the good news is the American people are in an uproar, and demanding fundamental reform, including a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and related decisions.”
“We are facing a dual attack on our democracy — everyday voters are being disenfranchised while corporations are being hyper-enfranchised,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “We need to fix the fundamentals of our political system if we want to get down to solving our long-term problems.”
“Since the Citizens United decision three years ago, voters have been clear in their disdain for this decision,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “The big question is whether our elected representatives will listen to those voices. Our goal is to build a wave of grassroots support so strong that they cannot ignore it.”
Added Marge Baker, executive vice president for People For the American Way, “Voter suppression and unlimited corporate and special interest money in politics serve as barriers to full civic participation, transparency, and accountability. We are excited to come together with our allies on this important weekend to signal our intentions to confront the multi-faceted assault on the voices of everyday Americans in our political system.”
Since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, super PACs and other independent groups — many of which can hide the identities of their donors — have spent huge amounts, in some cases outspending individual campaigns by a ratio of 2-to-1. Citizens United-enabled outside group spending is devoted overwhelmingly to negative attack ads.
Information about the nationwide action can be found at www.moneyout-votersin.org.
Follow this issue on Twitter at #MoneyOutVotersIn.
Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.