The fight to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and to undo its effects on our democracy is now being ratcheted up as a spectrum of progressive organizations are cooperating on multiple fronts.
The groups, which include the Campaign for America’s Future, discussed their objectives and strategies at a news conference Monday at the headquarters of the Service Employees International Union in Washington. Some of the actions that are planned for the coming weeks will include activists from the Occupy movement.
“We’re like a hornet’s nest that got whacked,” said Erin Black, an Occupy movement activist. “We’re scattered everywhere and ready to swarm on a particular target.”
“We are saying to corporate America, ‘enough is enough,’” said Bill de Blasio, public advocate for the City of New York. “We are not going to stand for our democratic system being overwhelmed by money. We are not going to stand for corporate America donating to super PACs; we’re going to challenge those donations, we’re going to challenge efforts to hide donations through c4’s and c6’s, we’re going to challenge the wealthy individuals who are flooding our system with money … and we have many tools to do it.”
One of those tools will be publicly exposing corporations that are large contributors to super PACs, using consumer campaigns similar to one launched against Target in 2010 when activists learned that the big-box retail chain had helped bankroll the campaign of an ultraconservative, anti-gay candidate, Tom Emmer, for Minnesota governor. The campaign prompted Target to apologize and change its procedures regarding political contributions, and the backlash sparked by the contribution may have contributed to Emmer’s eventual defeat.
“What happened to Target was child’s play,” de Blasio warned. “We will use every tool: whether it’s actions among consumers, up to boycotts; whether it’s shareholder actions; whether it’s work from pension funds, to use the power of pension funds to direct corporate America to change its ways; legal action. You name it, it’s on the table.”
Bob Edgar, the director of Common Cause, said his organization is promoting laws that will force corporations to make all political spending transparent. One such initiative would require publicly traded corporations to disclose their political activity to the Securities and Exchange Commission. (The Campaign for America’s Future launched an e-mail campaign in support of that regulation.) A broader effort at campaign disclosure would be passage of the DISCLOSE Act, which would require super PACs and political nonprofit organizations to make their campaign spending and much of their money sources public.
Americans United For Change announced a $25,000 reward for “the first employee who documented that his employer was using corporate funds to secretly contribute to a non-profit organization like American Crossroads GPS (a super PAC that includes among its leaders Republican operative Karl Rove) that buys ads to affect the election and is not required to disclose its donations.”
Public Citizen, along with Move to Amend, People For the American Way and Main Street Alliance, is leading an effort to get resolutions before municipalities and initiatives on ballots that would support a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United. The work is being done under the banner of an organization called Democracy Is For People.
And next month he Campaign for America’s Future will be among the organizations supporting the release of “Koch Brothers Exposed,” the latest documentary from Brave New Films (See a trailer of the film.). Charles and David Koch are behind the Americans for Prosperity super PAC and have also helped bankroll the American Legislative Exchange Council, the source for some of the most radical right-wing legislation coursing through state legislatures.
“The very idea that money is speech and corporations are people is a grotesque distortion of our democracy,” said Ethan Rome of Health Care for America Now. But with the coordinated action of progressive activists, from established inside-the-Beltway organizations to energized Occupy movement participants, the people who are attempting to use their wealth to buy our democracy will face a formidable challenge.
Farbod Khadkhoda contributed to this post.