Citizens United Is Just Shorthand

January 22, 2019

by Matthew Rothschild, Executive Director

 (These are Matt’s prepared remarks for the press conference this morning in the Wisconsin State Capitol.)

First off, I’d like to thank Rep. Subeck and Sen. Hansen for their steadfast and visionary leadership on this issue.

Secondly, I’d like to thank the Money Out, Voters In Coalition of Wisconsin, which organized this event. The coalition consists of Blue Jean Nation, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Common Cause in Wisconsin, Our Wisconsin Revolution, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Wisconsin Farmers Union, WisPIRG, Wisconsin United to Amend, and Wisconsin Voices.

Simply put, we don’t have a fair shot at a full democracy until we curb big money, dark money, and corporate money.

And the best way to do that is to amend the U.S. constitution to proclaim, once and for all, that only flesh-and-blood human beings have constitutional rights.

Citizens United is just a shorthandfor 130 years of bad U.S. Supreme Court decisions on corporate rights, and we’ve got to tear them all down!

There was the Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad case back in 1886, when a staff member on the Supreme Court, in a headnote to the decision, asserted that corporations are persons, and ever since then, the Supreme Court has used that as a precedent. That’s how crazy this is!

Then there’s Buckley v. Valeo in 1976, where the Court said money is speech.

And that brings us to Citizens United in 2010, where the Court said corporations and other groups can spend unlimited amounts of money to try to elect a candidate, so long as they’re not coordinating with that candidate.

That decision contained two of the most naïve statements every published in a U.S. Supreme Court decision:

Independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

And, “The appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.”

What planet were those justices living on?

Lastly, I’d just like to point out that this year, the anniversary of Citizens United fell on the same day as Martin Luther King Day, and Martin Luther King understood that corporations weren’t people and didn’t deserve the rights of people. “Property is not man,” he said.

And he also said: “If profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

In this, as in so many things, Martin Luther King was ahead of his time.

We simply can’t have Dr. King’s “beloved community” until we strip corporations of constitutional rights.