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On 9th Anniversary of Citizens United, Critics Call for Change

According to ProPublica, the 2018 Missouri Senate race took in more than $73 million from Political Action Committees. (Dodgerton Skillhause)
According to ProPublica, the 2018 Missouri Senate race took in more than $73 million from Political Action Committees. (Dodgerton Skillhause)
January 21, 2019

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Today is the ninth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. Critics say the case has led to an explosion of so-called dark money in politics.

The justices ruled that corporations have many of the same rights as people, so their political donations should be considered free speech and therefore, don't have to be disclosed. But a constitutional amendment to void the decision is expected to be reintroduced in Congress.

Kaitlyn Sopoci-Belknap, national director of the Move to Amend coalition, said the amendment has bipartisan support across the nation.

"Resolutions have passed all over the country, hundreds of them. And we also have seen good progress in the House of Representatives,” Sopoci-Belknap said. “We have been able to double the number of co-sponsors on our 'We the People' amendment every Congress since it was first introduced."

Missouri is not among the 19 states to pass resolutions supporting the "We the People" amendment. But Missouri voters chose to increase transparency in politics last November when they passed Amendment One. The ballot measure changed the redistricting process, but also lowered campaign contribution limits for state races, and made it more difficult for donors to use multiple political action committees to funnel money to a candidate.

The We The People amendment will likely be reintroduced in the Senate next month. Senate Democrats have also introduced HR 1, which would add more disclosure requirements. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blasted the measure, saying it's designed to get more Democrats elected.

Sopoci-Belknap said she blames both sides for the inaction.

"The leadership in both parties is not really taking cue from regular citizens, from the voters,” she said. “This is probably the one issue that has more consensus, from every direction of the political spectrum, than anything else. "

Meanwhile, money from unnamed donors keeps coming in. According to the watchdog group ProPublica, independent groups spent about $142,000 on state races in Missouri and more than $73 million on the U.S. Senate race in which Republican Josh Hawley unseated Democrat Claire McCaskill.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MO