A joint effort by State Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) and U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case and call for an end to corporate political spending took place on Thursday in Boston and Worcester.
Labeled a “People’s Rights” tour, the two politicians showed support for two new constitutional amendments filed by McGovern.
"When corporate dollars influence politics, the American people don't have a place at the table to express their principles and voice,” said Eldridge in a statement. “The new legislation proposed by Congressman McGovern would make it clear that First Amendment rights are for people, not corporations, making sure that corporate special interest money stops drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens.”
Attorney General Martha Coakley, State Rep. Cory Atkins, Rep. Marty Walz, Rep. Jim O’Day, Harvard Law Professor John Coates, American Sustainable Business Council CEO David Levine, and Free Speech for People co-founders John Bonifaz and Jeff Clements joined Eldridge in support of campaign finance reform.
In 2011, Eldridge and Atkins introduced S.772, “The People’s Rights Resolution,” a successful state resolution supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Eldridge reaffirmed his strong support for McGovern’s two new amendments to restore fair elections and constitutional rights in stops at Suffolk University and Clark University.
“Our election system is broken, awash in special interest money,” said McGovern in a statement. “As any high school civics student knows, the first three words of the preamble to the Constitution are ‘We the People.’ Corporations are not people. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling marks the most extreme extension of a corporate rights doctrine which has eroded our First Amendment and our Constitution, and we must work through every grassroots and legislative avenue to overturn it.”
S. 772, “The People’s Rights Resolution,” introduced by Eldridge and Atkins (D-Concord), decries the court’s ruling as a “serious and direct threat to our democracy.” The resolution has the Massachusetts Legislature call upon the U.S. Congress to “pass and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to restore the First Amendment and fair elections to the people.” The bill has more than a dozen co-sponsors.
McGovern’s first amendment, HJ Res 20, advances the fundamental principle of political equality for all by empowering Congress and the States to regulate political spending. It will allow Congress to pass campaign finance reform legislation that will withstand Constitutional challenges.
The second amendment, HJ Res 21, would overturn Citizens United and put a stop to the growing trend of corporations claiming first amendment rights. This “People’s Rights Amendment” not only addresses corporate rights as they pertain to campaign finance, but is broader in scope to clarify that corporations are not people with Constitutional rights. Importantly, the amendment clearly protects the people’s rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, freedom of association, and all other such rights of the people.
(Megan Montgomery contributed to this report.)