Restoring Free Speech (Bill S.772)

Amending the Constitution is a bottom-up –not top-down– process.  The actions of town and city governments and state legislatures “chain up” the message to Congress and the powers-that-be that the people want change.

The MA State bill s772 is being considered in committee in the MA Legislature. Its passage would be a strong declaration of Massachusetts citizens desire for real, substantive changes.

Our Town Meeting resolution calls upon our representatives in the Legislature,  State Senator Richard Ross and State Representative Denise Garlick, to pass this resolution.

Such statements at Town Meetings are powerful messages to our next level of government — state legislature — and in turn, passage of bill s772 sends a powerful message to our Massachusetts Congressional delegation to take up the mantel of fixing the problem of money in politics and unregulated campaign spending and SuperPACs.

The text of s772 is below, and you can track the bill’s progress via the MA Legislature’s website. Continue reading

US Senator John McCain (AZ, Republican)

Republican US Sen. John McCain“What the Supreme Court did [in the Citizens United vs. FEC decision] is a

combination of arrogance, naivete and stupidity

the likes of which I have never seen… I promise you,

there will be huge scandals

because there’s too much money washing around,

too much of it we don’t know who’s behind it and

too much corruption associated with that kind of money.

There will be major scandals.”

—John McCain, qtd. by Reuters

New York Times Editorial Page

The corrupting influence of money is not limited to bribery —

the broader problem is the ability of moneyed interests to put into office those who support their political agendas or financial interests.

Free speech? Expensive megaphone.

In Citizens United, Justice Kennedy cited James Madison in The Federalist in noting that “factions” in American democracy can be “checked” by ensuring that all of them can speak freely and “by entrusting the people to judge what is true and what is false.” Continue reading

Mass. State Senator Jamie Eldridge

The danger of undue corporate influence isn’t only for national elections.

Indeed, the biggest danger to our democracy might be at the local level.

A large developer seeking a change in a local zoning law, for example, could spend tens of thousands of dollars to influence a board of selectman race — small peanuts to the company, perhaps, but a substantial amount of money for that small local race.

A selectman who opposed the company could never compete financially with the flood of advertising.

Corporate lobbyists and other powerful special interests are now able to threaten public officials at all levels with the possibility of unending negative campaign ads if their agendas are not supported

— and the voices of ordinary citizens are at risk of being drowned out of the electoral process as a result.

–Massachusetts State Sen. Jamie Eldridge,

Democracy Isn’t For Sale“,

Metrowest Daily News

Infographic from the Dawn of the Age of Super PACs

The impact of the Citizens United decision on money and advertising in politics is confusing.  Citizens United wasn’t the beginning of the corrupting influence of money in political campaigns, but it made an existing problem even worse.  This chart, from the Washington Independent in October 2010, shows what’s new and changed.


Needham Town Meeting is voting on whether to ask Congress to amend the Constitution to reverse Citizens United; this isa clear action we can take now against this latest development (Citizens United).

However, the larger problem of the polluting influence of money in politics needs to be addressed on a larger scale, too.

League of Women Voters Needham

In a letter to the Needham Times on February 17, 2012, the Needham League outlines the effects of the “Citizens United” decision on our democracy, and steps we can take as citizens to fight back:

On Jan. 21, the nation marked the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a decision that enabled corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence federal and state elections. As the 2012 election season ramps up, so will the corporate, union and special interest financing of political advertising.

With the proliferation of SuperPACS and 501(c) organizations, major donors funding election advertising remain unidentified to the voters.

Although it has been fairly quiet here in Massachusetts so far, the 2012 campaign is already being highly influenced by enormous amounts of money.

As voters, what can we in Needham do?

§ First, ask every candidate at every level of government for his or her position on campaign finance reform.

§ Second, visit for reliable information for following the money in races in your district and around the country.

§ Third, question every political advertisement you see or hear.

§ Finally, support grassroots efforts at the local, state and national level to limit corporate and special interest funding of elections.

Help make democracy work — cast an informed vote!

Karen Price

President, League of Women Voters of Needham

 Find the Letter at the NEEDHAM TIMES SITE, here: