A press conference was held at the Madison Capitol on January 21, the fourth anniversary of the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision on Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, which opened the floodgates for huge amounts of money to be given by corporations and the extremely wealthy, as a form of "free speech," to political campaigns.
In addition, on October 8, 2013, the Supreme Court took up the McCutcheon case, which would give individuals the similar right to give as much money as they wished to individual political candidates. Further threatening our Democracy, the Wisconsin legislature has been discussing Bill AB225, which could double contributions to Wisconsin state legislators.
The Money Out-Voters In Coalition of over 30 groups, including several Move To Amend affiliates, seeks a Constitutional Amendment stating "Corporations are not people (don't have the inalienable or God-given rights of human beings) and money is not speech (and therefore unlimited amounts of money cannot be given as free speech). To this end, MOVI has supported the introduction of Assembly Joint Resolution 50 (AJR50) by Wisconsin Representative Chris Taylor.
Although AJR50 is co-sponsored by 26 assembly representatives and 11 senators, it has not yet been acted upon by the legislature. Taylor points out that all the resolution would do is allow the people to vote on this issue, and she questions how fellow legislators can deny this.
Speakers at the event explained its importance. Sarah Lloyd, president of the Columbia County Farmers Union and the Wisconsin Farmers Union said that rural residents and farmers are increasingly being ignored because of their lower campaign contributions.
Ben Seigel, small business owner of Versa Studio and member of the Wisconsin Business Alliance, said: "Laws are now passed for the highest bidder, the group willing and able to part with the most cash. Elected officials accept this funding, even when they would rather not, because they are part of a system which simply requires it for re-election. The money in politics is a big problem for citizens and for small business too. Small business owners want to compete in a free market –one that is open and fair."
A.J. Nino Amato, successful business executive and Executive Director of the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups, quoted Ben Franklin. When asked what was the biggest challenge after signing the U.S. Constitution, Franklin answered "It's to prevent the republic from being taken over for profit and greed." Amato added "And four years ago, that's exactly what's happened."
Representative Chris Taylor concluded: "This corporate money, and these billionaire contributions, are drowning out our voices in the electoral process, and unfortunately influencing the polities that result....And one of the biggest culprits in the system is Citizens United, which I really feel is one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in the history of this country." She was impressed that 3.7 million Americans gave small donations in the last presidential election, adding up to 313 million dollars, an amount equal to that given by just 32 billionaires.
"Something is terribly wrong with our system. And you think those 32 voices don't drown out the rest of us? – They do....78% of spending by outside groups in the 2012 election would have been prohibited if not for the Citizens United decision." When she attended the American Legislative Exchange Council conference in August, she was "both fascinated and horrified to see ... this corporate agenda that's being advanced ...rolling back workers' rights, fair, progressive tax policies, and consumer environmental protection."