Annapolis Mayor, City Council Members Support Overturning Citizens United
Annapolis, Md., Mayor Joshua Cohen and seven of the eight other members of the Annapolis City Council signed a letter drafted by the Community Forum of Annapolis calling on members of Congress to pass and send to the states a Constitutional amendment that would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s January, 2010 Citizens United decision. The seven Council members signing the letter are: Richard E. Israel (D., Ward 1); Classie G. Hoyle (D. Ward 3); Sheila M. Finlayson (D., Ward 4); Mathew Silverman (D., Ward 5); Kenneth A. Kirby (D., Ward 6); Ian Pfeiffer (D., Ward 7), and Ross H. Arnett, III (D., Ward 8).
Frederick M. Paone (R., Ward 2) declined to sign.
The letter notes that Citizens United and a related decision by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission, March 2010) enable corporations and individuals to make unlimited contributions and expenditures in support of candidates for public office, potentially corrupting the political system. It calls for an amendment that would give Congress and the states the authority to regulate political money, which the Citizens United decision forbade. The letter is an expression of support for an amendment, but not an action of the City Council as such.
The Community Forum of Annapolis is a group of concerned citizens dedicated to the proposition that our political process and economy should serve the needs of all Americans. The Forum believes that all citizens should have equal access to full participation in our political process. The Forum’s leader, Dr. Scott Eden, said, ”We are very pleased to have Annapolis’ political leaders add their voices to the chorus condemning the Citizens United decision, and hope that this letter will advance efforts to overturn this legalization of corruption in politics.”
Citizens United project director, David Boesel, said ”With this action, Annapolis political leaders are joining a national movement for a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Over 290 cities and towns — including New York, Los Angeles, and Jackson, MS — have passed resolutions calling for an amendment, as have seven state legislatures. The movement will continue to grow, as the gusher of negative Super PAC ads pours out in this election cycle.”
Citizens United and Its Consequences
In the Citizens United decision (January 2010), the Supreme Court
- Overturned the McCain Feingold Act;
- Held that corporations and unions can spend unlimited funds to support political candidates;
- Retained contributor disclosure provisions of earlier legislation;
- Stressed the independence of corporate and union expenditures;
- Concluded that “independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”
Shortly after Citizens United, the DC Court of Appeals ruled that certain PACs (later called Super PACs) can raise unlimited funds from corporations, unions and other groups, and individuals and can engage in unlimited political spending (SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission, March 2010).
The Super PACs resulting from these decisions
- Have opened the floodgates to vast amounts of political money, creating a class of super-citizens;
- Often avoid disclosure by accepting contributions from non-profit 501 (c) 4 “social welfare” organizations that do not have to identify their donors;
- Are often led by former staff members of the candidates they support, compromising their independence (at a minimum); and thereby
- Give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.
Goals and Means
The Community Forum of Annapolis opposes these decisions and is working to help overturn them or reduce their impact.
There are at least three approaches to doing so:
- 1. A Constitutional amendment;
- 2. Reversal by the Supreme Court; and
- 3. Ameliorative legislative and regulatory action.
The Forum supports national efforts to pursue all three approaches.
WE ARE CURRENTLY PARTICIPATING IN A NATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO GET CITY COUNCILS ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO CALL ON CONGRESS TO PASS A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT OVERTURNING CITIZENS UNITED.
Organizations leading the effort include:
- Public Citizen
- Common Cause
- People for the American Way
- Move to Amend