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Your Government? Five Years After "Citizens United"

PHOTO: Are some voices being drowned out by big money? The debate over a court decision that opened the floodgates to corporate money in politics continues to rage, five years after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling. Photo credit: Greg Stotelmyer.
PHOTO: Are some voices being drowned out by big money? The debate over a court decision that opened the floodgates to corporate money in politics continues to rage, five years after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling. Photo credit: Greg Stotelmyer.
January 21, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. - It was five years ago today that a ruling from the nation's highest court opened the floodgates to major corporate campaign spending. The Supreme Court's ruling in the Citizens United versus Federal Election Commission case gave special interest groups the right to spend as much as they want on elections.

Richard Beliles, state chair with Common Cause of Kentucky, believes the voices of everyday Americans were silenced when the court essentially said corporations are people.

"It's not a person," says Beliles. "It shouldn't have all the rights individual citizens have."

Beliles and others are rallying at the State Capitol in support of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving Congress and the states control of political campaign spending.

Beliles says a new report from Common Cause - "Whose Government? Whose Voice?" - claims unfettered special interest spending is blocking progress on five key issues important to the American people the minimum wage, gun control, climate change, student loans, and net neutrality.

"It's wrong, it's against the public good, it's against the public interest," says Beliles.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is among those who see political contributions as a form of free speech.

Sara Porter of Midway is with the steering committee of Central Kentucky Move to Amend, part of a nationwide coalition attempting to tamp down corporate rule. She says the U.S. has become a "fragile democracy," in part because corporations now have more ammunition, in her words, to "tell us how we should live and what we should do."

"Yes, big money has taken over," says Porter. "Banks run the government. We're controlled, and we don't even know we're controlled, because this just doesn't get through."

But Porter adds, more and more people are "waking up slowly" to the problem, citing formal legislative action in 16 states backing the idea of a constitutional amendment to get corporate money out of government.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY