Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith

This resolution is a reaffirmation of the belief, shared by many Vermont communities, that corporations should not be allowed to engage in unlimited spending to unduly influence elections.

With our longstanding tradition of town meetings and our citizen legislature–

–any Vermonter can have an impact.

Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith

Learning from the Suffragettes

In this inspiring and provocative essay, author Theo Anderson explores the similarities between the push to reform campaign financing and overturn Citizens United, and the suffragette movement of the early 20th century. Read the whole piece here, or an abridged version below:

In truth, the momentum for reversing Citizens United was never going to come from the White House, much less from Congress. Both are too deeply enmeshed in the system to invest much effort in reforming it.

The energy to defeat the ruling will come, if it comes from anywhere, from old-fashioned grassroots activism. And on that front, the outlook is more promising than you might guess. There’s good news and bad news, and some more good news.

The first piece of good news is that Citizens United isn’t a partisan issue: a substantial majority of voters favor imposing limits on the influence of money and lobbyists in American politics (poll).

The bad news is that reversing Citizens United is only the first step if we’re serious about addressing corruption in American politics. To believe that reversing the ruling a panacea is to believe that “our democracy was fine and Citizens United broke it.

But of course, the democracy was already broken,” as Lawrence Lessig, who directs the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard, has observed. He argues that the Left and the Right can agree that the influence of money is a major reason for the corruption of our politics, and calls for them to join forces and replace the current system with public financing and limited private donations.

The second piece of good news is that there is a well-marked path toward achieving both the immediate goal of overturning Citizens United and the broader goal of replacing our current system of campaign finance. It involves building on the accomplishments of campaigns at the state and local levels.

Building on state-level activism and incremental progress – with the ultimate aim of passing a constitutional amendment that addresses both Citizens United and the general corruption of our politics – has an important precedent. It was the strategy used by the woman suffrage movement a century ago, at a time when passing an amendment that guaranteed women the right to vote seemed about as likely as purging corruption from our politics seems today.

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