Have they done anything yet?
We marked the third anniversary this month of the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, one you know well if you’re a regular CommonBlog visitor. That decision plays the biggest part in our current money in politics woes.
Here in Colorado, we became a leader in the fight to win democracy back from special interests when we put Amendment 65 to a vote, a statewide ballot measure passed by 74% of Colorado voters. It instructs our elected leaders to pass a US constitutional amendment that reverses that bad Supreme Court decision and allows for limits on money in politics.
CoPIRG checked in with our congressional delegation ahead of the anniversary to see if they have been following their constituents’ instructions. Although it’s a little early to give a full report card, our representatives have mostly done very little.
Congressman Ed Perlmutter co-sponsored two constitutional amendments during the last Congress, he joined the Election Reform Task Force in November where they think about ways to combat the Citizens United decision and has said that it’s time for action on this issue. Senator Michael Bennet introduced a constitutional amendment during the last Congress that would allow Congress to regulate money in politics. Congressmen Jared Polis has said he would look closely at proposals that reverse Citizens United.
Congressman Scott Tipton says he “empathizes” with Coloradans about our frustrations with campaign finance, but hides behind the Supreme Court decision saying it’s the final word on the matter. If that were true, we would not have an amendment system that has allowed 7 amendments to pass that countered US Supreme Court decisions. Congressman Cory Gardner also “understands” our frustration with money in politics, but seems to think fixes will impair our free speech rights. Our perspective is that money is property, it is not speech and those who can pay unfairly get the megaphone without interruption. Congressman Doug Lamborn has said that he “respects the views” of Coloradans, but that he thinks the Supreme Court definition of money as speech is appropriate. We would like to remind the Congressman that Amendment 65 was not an expression of the views of Coloradans; we were instructing those whom we have hired to represent us to pass a constitutional amendment that would allow us to limit money in politics. Congressman Mike Coffman has not responded to our requests. Congresswoman Diana DeGette has not made any public commitments to follow the instructions in Amendment 65, although before the vote on 65 her staff indicated that she did not support a constitutional amendment.
There are additional actions our delegation can take to improve our campaign finance system, and many have shown support for them, but the people of Colorado gave clear instructions about passing a constitutional amendment.
Last Saturday, there was an event at the State Capitol Building marking the anniversary of Citizens United. Activists used the moment as an opportunity to have advocates from other causes talk about the impact big money is having in their work: healthy food systems, an environment free of toxic chemicals, equal protection in our elections, and others. This issue is not going away. We will continue to check in with our congressional delegation on what they’re doing to follow the will of the voters.