Citizens United: 10 Years Later Americans Demand Change

Washington, D.C. – Today marks 10 years since the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for corporations and wealthy donors to spend an unlimited amount of money to influence our elections with its Citizens United v. FEC decision. To put the power back in the hands of people, the Declaration for American Democracy coalition calls on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow a vote on the For the People Act (HR 1), a bill that would fix our broken democracy.

Since Jan. 21, 2010, when the Court issued the damaging Citizens United decision, political contributions from wealthy and powerful groups to federal elections have skyrocketed to $1 billion. Research shows that these wealthy donors have a significantly greater influence over policy than the average American, who has very different concerns and priorities. Politicians have been selling out to special interests and the result is lack of progress on key issues voters care about, such as lowering the price of prescription drugs, creating a fair tax system, and addressing gun violence. A new video from The Story of Stuff Project, called “The Story of Citizens United v. FEC,” explores the relationship between politicians and corporations in greater detail.

The For the People Act which would reduce the influence of big money and corporate lobbyists, protect and expand the right to vote, and restore ethics and accountability, has been stalled in the Senate ever since the U.S. House of Representatives passed it in March 2019.

Jana Morgan, campaign director of Declaration for American Democracy, said: “Our democracy must work for all Americans, not just a privileged few. In the years since the misguided Citizens United v. FEC decision, the outsized influence of wealthy donors and corporate interests has grown exponentially. If we are ever going to truly reduce the power of big money and see progress on the issues voters care about, the Senate must advance HR 1, the For the People Act. Only then can we repair the damage from Citizens United and build a 21st century democracy that works for the people, not big donors or wealthy corporate interests.”

Virginia Case, CEO of the League of Women Voters of the United States, said: “The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC has done significant harm to our electoral system over the last decade. This decision opened the door to the corrupting influence of big money and special interests in candidate campaigns. The flood of secret, dark money into our political system has threatened to drown out the voices of everyday citizens. Now, more than ever, we need real disclosure requirements to tell the American people where the money is coming from and regulations that stop groups and individuals from getting around disclosure. That is why it’s essential that Congress pass H.R. 1, the For the People Act. This important legislation will close the loopholes in our campaign finance system and put our elections back in the hands of the people.”

Marge Baker, executive vice president of policy and program for People For the American Way, said: “For 10 years, the fallout from Citizens United has corrupted our politics and robbed citizens of representation that reflects our values and priorities.  The House recognized this when it passed H.R. 1, in which there is an explicit call for a constitutional amendment to remedy the damage done by Citizens United.  We strongly support the comprehensive approach taken in H.R. 1, including passage of a constitutional amendment so we can reclaim our democracy and end the takeover of the people’s government by giant corporations and wealthy special interests.”

Stephen Schneck, PhD, executive director of Franciscan Action Network, said: As people of faith, we believe in the dignity of each and every human being. But for the last 10 years, the golden calf of big money has infiltrated our politics and defiled our democracy drowning out the voices of individuals and disrespecting their human dignity. An immediate solution to this problem would be the passage of H.R. 1 in the Senate to remove the roadblock of big money in politics and help to once again restore the balance of democracy to the people. The future of our democracy may very well depend on reversing the harmful Citizens United decision.

Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, executive director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, said: “In the decade since SCOTUS’ misguided Citizens United ruling, we have seen a deluge of undisclosed and unlimited dark money flow unimpeded into our election campaigns. In 2020, we are witnessing the moral consequences of this chokehold of money on our politics. Wealthy donors and special interests are controlling the political conversation and freezing out low wage workers, families in poverty and struggling communities of color. My faith is clear: Corporations are not people and money is not speech. Pope Francis calls us to create a ‘Politics that must not be subject to the economy.’ We need to change the law to ensure that we have a democracy of the people, by the people and for the people.”

Amanda Ballantyne, executive director of Main Street Alliance, said: “Small businesses bear the brunt of corporate control of political will in the U.S. From consolidation and monopolization, to giant corporations not paying their fair share of taxes, special interests in politics are creating inequality and hamstringing policies that would actually support our communities and customers. With undue influence over elections and outsized money in politics, corporations have used the decade since the passage of Citizens United to create a stranglehold on the election cycle. Many small business owners understand that economic power and political power go hand-in-hand. We must seize this opportunity to finally pass bold, comprehensive reforms that fix our political system, like the For the People Act.”

Chris Shelton, President of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), said: “You can see the harm that Citizens United has done to our country every time you turn on your TV and see the wall-to-wall ads of corporations trying to buy your votes. If corporations have unlimited power to choose the most favorable politicians for their bank account while people work, suffer, and struggle, day after day – then our democracy is a sham. It’s time to fundamentally reform our political system by passing the For the People Act. It’s time for Mitch McConnell to do his job and put this bill up for a vote.”

Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Human and Civil Rights, said: “The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Citizens United has undermined our democracy and allowed unlimited dark money to flood our elections, determine our candidates, and silence ‘We The People’. This unequal access to the levers of our government is causing widespread and staggering setbacks for civil and human rights — from affordable health care to fair wages to educational equity to justice reform. To fix what is broken and put representation back in the hands of the people, The Leadership Conference calls on the Senate to pass HR 1, the For the People Act.”

The Declaration for American Democracy is a diverse coalition of more than 145 democracy, environmental, faith-based, good government, civil rights, and other groups focused on advancing the structural changes necessary to ensure our democracy reflects, responds to, and represents voters.