Citizens United opponents likened the rights of corporations to a national scandal this week: Manti Te’o’s hoax girlfriend.
“If you think about this notion of a ‘catfish relationship’ of an online, supposedly hoax of a person who was relating to another person that didn’t even exist,” said Greg Coleridge, of Move to Amend. “The media has jumped on that, meanwhile the ultimate Moby Dick … of a hoax is that we have defined corporations as persons.”
Coleridge spoke to about 20 people during a press conference today on the danger of giving rights to corporations. Later, about 30 people marched to the Ohio Statehouse with signs and a megaphone to spread their message.
Citizens United is a controversial Supreme Court decision that expanded the rights of corporations to donate funds in the political arena.
Tabitha Woodruff, of the Ohio PIRG Education Fund, released what she said is troubling data the organization collected about fundraising during the 2012 election season, specifically from Super PAC and outside organizations. Outside groups – those not officially collaborating with candidates – spent more than $41 million on Ohio’s federal Senate and House races last year. Of that, super-PACs spent $18.8 million, according to the organization’s report.
The report also stated that more than 40 percent of outside funding came from groups that are not required to publicly disclose their donors.
In all, super-PACs spent $634 million this election and often-affiliated 501(c) groups spent $300 million, according to the Sunlight Foundation. The figures include House, Senate and presidential races.
Woodruff and others said the large amount of outside and hidden spending alters the election process.
“When you talk about one person, one vote, that’s not happening anymore,” Woodruff said.
Citizens United opponents are fighting to eventually pass a constitutional amendment to remove the rights of corporations completely, allowing legislators to regulate campaign fundraising and spending.
The movement has not received high levels of media attention, but is gaining members and momentum, said Michael Greenman, co-founder of the Central Ohio Move to Amend organization.
As opponents spread the word, more people will get on board, which is important because of the suppression of democracy has become like the suppression of the colonists by the pre-revolutionary British, Greenman said.
“We can’t even talk about gun control because of the influence of corporations,” he said. “This movement has got to come from the people.”
The problem, Greenman said, is that there is not enough attention and motivation yet. Achieving the goal of a constitutional amendment is still decades off, he said.
Opponents have made progress, however, with city councils in cities like Athens and Oberlin passing official resolutions, Greenman said.
“I don’t think anyone is saying it’s going to be quick,” Greenman said. “I’d love to be optimistic, but it may not even happen within my lifetime – and I’ll keep fighting until then.”