Vermonters boost drive to reverse Citizens United

Thousands of Vermonters sent their congressmen and senators a message on Tuesday: get busy and pass a constitutional amendment to control big money in politics.

Residents attending 57 annual town meetings across the Green Mountain State approved a resolution instructing their representatives to approve an amendment reversing the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision of 2010 and send it to the states for ratification.

“This is the beginning of a movement to take back our democracy from the pernicious influence of big money,” said Wally Roberts, executive director of Common Cause Vermont. “The people of Vermont are showing the way to a better democracy.”

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court declared that corporations, unions and other groups have the same free speech rights as individual citizens and thus can spend as much as they like to influence elections.

The decision upended laws controlling corporate political spending that had been on the books for more than a century. It and other Supreme Court rulings on political spending have spurred the growth of SuperPACs and the rise of tax-exempt political groups that can hide their donors from public view.

Vermont’s annual town meetings began in the mid-1700s and are one of America’s oldest exercises in direct democracy. Held on the first Tuesday in March, the meetings are where citizens elect local officials, approve town budgets and discuss and vote on local issues.

Common Cause has launched a national campaign, Amend 2012, to secure ballot initiatives and referenda that will allow citizens in as many states as possible to send their representatives instructions to support and pass an amendment reversing the decision and permitting sensible controls on corporate political spending.



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