Reference: Free Speech for People – Update on Work to Overturn Supreme Court Ruling on Citizens United


December 2011

Free Speech For People is a national, non-partisan campaign seeking to restore democracy to the people and to ensure that people, not corporations, govern in America. FSFP is dedicated to overturning, through a 28th Amendment to the US Constitution, the US Supreme Court’s January 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC and a corporate rights doctrine, which threatens our elections and our self-government.

As is demonstrated by the survey research we commissioned with Peter Hart and Hart Research Associates with the support of the Nathan Cummings Foundation, we face today an historic moment for uniting the country around a basic and common principle: government of, for, and by the people. During our first two years, Free Speech For People has laid the groundwork for a broad-based grassroots movement to seize this moment. The following is a summary of recent highlights of our work this year:

Our People’s Rights Amendment Is Introduced in Congress

• On November 15, 2011, Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts introduced our People’s Rights Amendment to overturn the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC and to make clear that corporations do not have the rights of people under the US Constitution. We will now have the opportunity to press for a debate in the US Congress on this proposed 28th Amendment to the US Constitution.

• The People’s Rights Amendment already has more than a dozen co-sponsors, including Republican Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina, making it the only bipartisan amendment bill pending in Congress that addresses the Citizens United ruling.

• In September 2011, Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland re-introduced her amendment bill to overturn the Citizens United ruling. We worked closely with her office, helping to draft the language of the bill, along with renowned constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School. While the Edwards amendment would not overturn the corporate rights doctrine, it is an important step forward in the overall constitutional amendment movement to reclaim our democracy.

• We have continued to serve as a key expert resource for Members of Congress considering the introduction of constitutional amendment bills addressing the Citizens United ruling.

Building Momentum in the States

• We have enlisted the support from leading state legislators in key targeted states, including New Mexico, Massachusetts and Washington State. We are working in these priority states to build broad coalitions and energize on-the-ground activists to press for the passage of state and local resolutions in support of a constitutional amendment to reclaim our democracy.

• In Massachusetts, we have received endorsements of our campaign from MassVOTE, the League of Women Voters, and the Massachusetts Nurses Association. In December, we held a kick-off meeting for our organizational allies with more than a dozen key groups represented, and we held a kick-off conference call with activists from across the state ready to organize around local city and town resolutions. Ten Massachusetts communities have already passed such resolutions at their annual town meetings this year.

• In New Mexico, we have enlisted the support of the Center for Civic Policy and New Mexico Common Cause, along with other key organizational allies, to press for the passage of a state legislative resolution in the upcoming 30-day legislative session starting in mid-January 2012.

• On December 7, 2011, Martha Coakley, the Attorney General of Massachusetts, became the first sitting state attorney general in the country to join the call for a Constitutional Amendment. This sets a huge precedent, not just in Massachusetts but for other states to follow as well. Attorney General Coakley endorsed our resolution now pending in the Massachusetts legislature.

• We have conducted public education events in nearly twenty states across the country, highlighting the impact of the Citizens United ruling and the corporate rights doctrine on our democracy and demonstrating the need for a constitutional amendment to address it.

Pushing Back in the Courts

• In April 2011, we filed an amicus brief before the Montana Supreme Court in defense of the Montana Corrupt Practices Act, a century-old ban on corporate political expenditures in the state. The case marks the first direct challenge to the Citizens United ruling.

• In September 2011, we held the first of a series of briefing calls for our legal network, bringing together more than 35 lawyers and law professors, including a featured guest speaker, Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock, who is at the forefront of defending Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act.

• We are now recognized as a leading and popular legal resource on the Citizen United case and on the corporate rights doctrine that unduly leverages corporate economic power into political power. We have appeared on panels at law schools, such as Harvard, Boston College, Cornell, New York University, University of Colorado-Boulder, New Hampshire, Maine, New England and the University of Washington. We have authored Issue Briefs and written opinion pieces and blog postings for the American Constitution Society and the American Bar Association Section on Local and State Governments. We remain in dialogue with leading organizations such as the Brennan Center for Justice.

Building Business Community Support

• We have initiated a partnership with the American Sustainable Business Council – Business for Democracy, representing a network of more than 70,000 businesses. With this partnership, we have conducted public education and outreach to the business community, enlisting the support of business leaders across the country for a constitutional amendment to restore democracy to the people.

• In June 2011, we jointly held a webinar with Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Business For Democracy which generated significant interest among business leaders.

• Nearly 1000 business leaders have signed our statement calling on Congress to pass and send to the states a constitutional amendment that makes clear that free speech and other constitutional rights are for people, not corporations.

• The American Sustainable Business Council, the American Independent Business Alliance, and two local Montana businesses joined our amicus brief which we filed before the Montana Supreme Court in defense of the state’s century-old ban on corporate political expenditures.
Using the Power to Revoke a Corporate Charter

• We have jointly launched, with Appalachian Voices and the Rainforest Action Network, a call to revoke the corporate charter of the Massey Energy Company in the wake of a new, official report which finds that Massey “operated its [coal] mines in a profoundly reckless manner” leading to the deaths last year of 29 coal miners in the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.

• We have enlisted the support of more than 35,000 people from across the country to hold Massey Energy accountable for its reckless and illegal practices in its coal mining operations.

• In September, we held a tele-press conference with the leading environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who announced his endorsement of this initiative, and we brought a delegation to meet with officials in Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden’s office.

America is at a crossroads. In the wake of the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, we must fight to restore democracy to the people. Your support of Free Speech For People will help to ensure that people, not corporations, govern in America.

For more information, contact Free Speech For People’s Director, John Bonifaz, at (413) 253-2700 or via email at  Website:  FreeSpeechforPeople

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