Miami Valley Today, January 20, 2024
To the editor:
January 21 is a good day to reflect on the state of our democracy. Why? Because it’s the 14th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
The court’s 5-4 decision upheld two misguided notions: The first, that a corporation has inherent, inalienable constitutional rights same as you and me. The second, that money spent on political campaigns is protected speech.
These interpretations of the U.S. Constitution thwart democracy in two ways: First, something created on paper through a state charter often has more power than flesh-and-blood people (think companies given the right to dump fracking wastewater in communities where residents object). Second, those with the most money have greater access to lawmakers and influence over laws and policies that affect our wallets, let alone our health (think Akron-based FirstEnergy Corporation, the company behind the largest public corruption scandal in Ohio history).
The doctrines of “corporate constitutional rights” and “money as speech” go against the ideals of our democratic republic. As stated by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, those principles are “a government of the people, by the people, for the people”—not a government of, by, and for powerful corporations and ultrawealthy individuals.
To restore a government of, by, and for the people, it’s not enough to overturn the Citizens United decision. We need the proposed We the People Amendment. Currently identified as House Joint Resolution 54, it was reintroduced in Congress last spring and now has 75 cosponsors. The proposed amendment will make clear that (1) only natural persons have inherent, inalienable constitutional rights and (2) money spent on political campaigns is not protected speech and shall be regulated. It represents a critical first step in making our elected representatives genuinely accountable to you and me.
Learn more about the need for the We the People Amendment. Watch a 5-minute video narrated by Peter Coyote at youtube.com/watch?v=bPMxwVfIKhs. Endorse the amendment by signing the petition at movetoamend.org/motion. Then call Reps. Warren Davidson (OH-8) and Mike Carey (OH-15) and urge them to cosponsor HJR 54. Give JD Vance and Sherrod Brown a call, too; encourage them to support a companion resolution in the Senate. If you’re concerned about threats to our democracy, this is a great nonpartisan way to protect it.