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CORVALLIS, Ore. - It's the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's "Citizens United" ruling, and some Oregonians have been working for five years to counteract it.
The ruling removed limits on the amount of money that corporations, associations and unions can spend on political campaigns.
In 2013, the Oregon Legislature passed a Joint Memorial opposing the decision, and nationwide, hundreds of towns, counties and states have made similar moves. But more could be done, said Rachel Ozretich, a steering committee member of the Corvallis chapter of "Move to Amend," the group seeking a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.
"In Oregon, we have almost no regulations of campaigns, and we certainly have good eggs and bad eggs," she said. "But our Legislature really did well in passing - in a bipartisan vote - the memorial that we asked them to pass."
The eight Move to Amend chapters in Oregon are gathering signatures for a 2016 ballot measure to support a constitutional convention. If two-thirds of the states do the same, a convention is the place where a constitutional amendment would be written - in this case, to say corporations are not people and money is not speech.
Stephen Spaulding, policy counsel for the watchdog group Common Cause, said millionaires and billionaires have gained greater influence over elections at every level of government since the Citizens United ruling. In 2014, he said, spending from undisclosed sources topped $170 million.
Add that to the more than $300 million spent during the 2012 presidential election and, said Spaulding, "We're well over $500 million in money that is untraceable, that has been dumped into our elections, that otherwise likely would not have been spent but for Citizens United."
Spaulding said a new Common Cause report shows political spending from secret sources has influenced issues that range from minimum wage and gun control to climate change and having an open Internet. The report is online at commoncause.org.
Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR