Cleveland citizens decry impact of Citizens United case at first Democracy Day hearing

May 10, 2017
Robert Higgs

Hearing prompts calls to curb corporate campaign influence

CLEVELAND, Ohio - A crowd filled City Council's hearing room Monday to condemn the level of influence corporations can wield over politicians via contributions to political campaigns.  

The problem, they said, exists at a national level with contributions from industry giants in areas such as healthcare and banking and at a local level with contributions from businesses such as restaurants and taverns. 

The event marked Cleveland City Council's first Democracy Day hearing, the outgrowth of a citizen petition drive. It is part of an effort to amend the U.S. Constitution to counteract the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. the FEC. 

That much debated decision, announced in January 2010, held that corporations enjoy freedom of speech protections under the Constitution that prohibit the government from limiting their political activity and expenditures. 

Those testifying Monday argued that the nation's founding fathers never intended for those rights to be extend beyond individual citizens. 

Move to Amend, a grassroots organization, has pressed local governments to pass resolutions in support of the amendment. Cleveland did just that in 2016. 

A petition drive last year gathered 9,000 signatures from Clevelanders that persuaded City Council to hold Democracy Day hearings every two years and to require the mayor to write legislators in Columbus and Washington urging support for an amendment. 

Dozens of residents attended the hearing. Those who testified cited areas where the corporate interests have gained influence over elected leaders -- in Congress, the statehouse and in local offices -- because they can donate large sums of money to campaigns. 

Groups audience: