Draft Letters to the Editor / OpEd on Citizens United Anniversary




Overturning Citizens United isn’t enough

Dear Editor,

The January 21, 2010 Citizens United decision has unquestionably reduced democracy in our country.

Total election spending was $14.4 billion in 2020, up from $5.3 billion in 2008, according to Open Secrets.The super rich and corporations were major sources of this flood of increased election spending, drowning out the political voices of the public majority unable to politically contribute. 

It’s a mistake, however, to believe that:

  1. The constitutional doctrine that political money spent in elections equals “free speech” began with Citizens United. “Money is speech” goes back to the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo Supreme Court ruling.

  2. The corporate “right” to spend money in elections began with Citizens United. That originated with the 1978 Supreme Court First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti case.

  3. “Corporate personhood” began with Citizens United. That started in the 1880’s and currently includes the Supreme Court declaring First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment corporate constitutional rights that were intended solely for human persons. 

Citizens United is simply the latest in a long line of anti-democratic Supreme Court decisions that have empowered the super rich and corporations to trump the ability of We the People to make decisions protecting our lives, communities and the natural world. Needed is not simply a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, but rather the We the People Amendment (HJR54) that would abolish the “money equals speech” and “a corporation is a person” bizarre constitutional doctrines. 


Representative firstname lastname is a HJR54 legislative co-sponsor and should be congratulated.

Representative firstname lastname should be urged to legislatively co-sponsor HJR54.

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Dear Editor,

The anniversary of the Citizens United vs. FEC Supreme Court decision is coming up on January 21.  It will be fourteen years since that damaging ruling was made.  

Since that time, campaign spending has vastly increased and we are assaulted by superficial messages on our televisions, radios, newspapers, phones, computers, newspapers and billboards every election season.  It has become distressingly difficult to find out what the actual issues are or hear any meaningful discussion of the issues facing our nation, states and communities.

Over more than 100 years, Supreme Court rulings have given human rights to legally chartered companies and organizations and expanded the definition of free speech to include unlimited spending on political speech i.e. campaigning. 

What’s a voter to do?  We need to put the people back in We the People! The We the People Amendment (House Joint Resolution 54) has been introduced in Congress.  Please encourage your Representative to co-sponsor it.

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OR please thank your Representative for being a co-sponsor.

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Dear Editor,

January 21 will be the fourteenth anniversary of the unpopular Citizens United Supreme Court decision.  Many people think that decision was when the money floodgates for campaign spending opened, but in fact there is a much longer history to the problem.

 Over more than a hundred years, Supreme Court rulings have expanded the definition of “person” to include fictional legal “persons” like corporations and organizations.  This has resulted in large corporations and organizations using their much greater resources than the average voter to influence legislation to the point where We the People have less and less to say about our own governance.

 The We the People Amendment, correcting this undemocratic situation, has been introduced in Congress. My Representative _________  _______ is a cosponsor  of the Amendment (House Joint Resolution 54) and I thank _(him/her/them)_for taking a stand.  I hope you will too.

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OR My Representative ___________  ____________ is not yet a co-sponsor of the Amendment (House Joint Resolution 54).  I am asking _(her/him/them)_ to sign on as a co-sponsor and I hope you will too.

A few more than 144 words


Examples of 2 letters published in a small local weekly asking people to come to a City Council meeting about a resolution supporting an amendment.                                                

The Problem with Money    

Dear Editor,                                                                                   

      Huge concentrations of wealth are wrecking economic and social infrastructure worldwide. Greed, the shadow side of money, is working its influence behind the scenes in politics. Recently, the rising monied aristocracy has been emboldened, no longer needing to deal with regulators in order to pocket politicians, This aristocracy can now step out into the open, because Campaign contributions can now be unlimited and elections can be even more easily bought. The Supreme Court has made this legal, moving against the common man by voting to give corporations the same rights as people and money the rights of free speech.

      I believe this example of misrule to be so egregious that all citizens, regardless of party allegiance, should be galvanized against it. Our local community should speak out with a resounding “no”! What do we do? We should think globally and act locally, re-imagining money and creating our own, as many communities are beginning to do both here and abroad. More importantly, for the moment, we need to turn back this recent Supreme Court ruling by supporting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would abolish corporate personhood and overturn the absurd ruling that political spending is the equivalent of free speech. Visit www.MoveToAmend.org. We in Willits can join the other governing bodies in the county that have passed a resolution calling for the return of our democracy and our elections back to us, the people, and reclaiming our sovereign right to self-governance. 

     Please join us Wednesday, May 14, at 6:30 pm at Willits City Hall.  We need a crowd. 

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Dear Editor, 

On May 14th the Willits City Council will be considering a resolution to join the nationwide movement to amend the US Constitution to end corporate personhood in accordance with Advisory Measure F passed by voters in Mendocino County in 2012 by a margin of 75%. The measure advised all governmental bodies in the county to pass a corresponding resolution to demand of our state and federal legislators that they initiate and pass the constitutional amendment. All other city and county governmental bodies in Mendocino County have already passed such resolutions except Willits.

Why is this a local issue and why is it important, you might ask. 

 The US Constitution does not mention corporations nor their status with respect to personal constitutional rights. However, through a series of court decisions beginning in 1886, legal precedent has been established to allow corporations to claim all of the constitutional rights – e.g. as defined in the Bill of Rights – including right to privacy, equal opportunity and free speech. This precedent was finalized by the more recent Supreme Court ruling in the case known as Citizens United v. FEC, which not only explicitly confirmed corporate personhood but also equated monetary spending with free speech, thus overturning all campaign finance limitations that had been or could be democratically established by our elected officials. This outrageous ruling has effectively undermined any ability WE THE PEOPLE might have in determining our own lives. It has opened up the floodgates of corporate bribery and allowed the super wealthy to essentially turn our democracy into an oligarchy (AKA corporatocracy). 

 Among other things these misguided court determinations overrule any local (or even state and federal level) democratic decision-making when it comes to preventing some undesirable corporate behavior, i.e. limiting their ability to run roughshod over us. They can and, in fact, have claimed that such decisions are an infringement on their “constitutional rights” to privacy, equal opportunity, and/or free speech and are thus null and void. Consequently local communities have been repeatedly rebuked when they have – with a majority vote – successfully passed a resolution denying corporations a permit to establish operations in their regions or even limiting their activities.

 The movement to amend the constitution is now well on its way and endorsed by voters with wide margins everywhere it has been put on a ballot. Hundreds of local communities and several states have already passed resolutions in support of the amendment. It is time for Willits to get on board. The groundswell to reclaim our democracy must continue and the Willits voters have already told their council we want to be part of it. The amendment will only become a reality if WE THE PEOPLE stand together to fend off the power the corporations currently wield over us.

 Come to the council meeting on May 14th and show your support for a constitutional amendment to end corporate rule through the phony guise of “personhood”. This is without doubt the most critical issue of our times.


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​​What Hath
Citizens’ United Wrought?  The View After 14 Years

By John Fioretta, Esq. and _____________________

 On January 21, 2010 the Supreme Court decided the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, which gave corporations and labor unions a First Amendment right to make unlimited independent contributions to support or oppose candidates for elected office.  Subsequent cases further eroded the federal Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act so individuals may now do so as well.  The result has been a flood of money into our political system fundamentally corrupting our democracy. 

  • In the 2010 midterm election, the first after Citizens United, total spending on all federal elections was over $4.9 billion.  It rose to more than $8.9 billion in 2022, a 181 percent increase. 

  • For the 20 years preceding Citizens United, non-party independent groups spent $750,000,000.  In the 10 years afterwards they spent $4.5 billion, a six-fold increase.   
  • During the decade before Citizens United, dark money groups—non-profits not required to disclose their donors—contributed $129,000,000.  In the decade following they gave $963,000,000, over seven times more.

 The Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Citizens’ United authored by Justice Kennedy stated that “[w]ith the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable…This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”  Citizens’ United v. FEC, 558 U.S. 310 (2010).  This statement didn’t reflect reality at the time and is even less accurate now.  By 2015 even Justice Kennedy said that the disclosure system was"not working the way it should" and criticized federal agencies for not requiring more disclosure.  

What else hath Citizens’ Unite wrought?  Even more harmful impacts on the states. 

  • In a study of six states published in 2016 the Brennan Center found that gray money increased from 15 percent in 2006 to 59 percent in 2014 of all outside spending.  Gray money is “spending by state super PACs that reported other PACs as donors, making it impossible to identify original donors without sifting through multiple layers of PAC disclosures.” 

  • In the six states examined, full transparency of spending plunged from 76 percent in 2006 to 29 percent in 2014. 

  • From 2006-2014 Dark Money increased on average in these states by 38 times. 

  • Though legally required to disclose their donors, state super PACs often receive donations from Dark Money PACs which need not disclose theirs.  During the same time period such donations multiplied 49 times from under $190,000 to more than $9.2 million. 

  • Perhaps the worse impact of secret money at the state level is that when it can be tracked it is “traced back to such sources as a mining company targeting a state legislator who held a key role opposing quicker mining permits, payday lenders supporting an attorney general who promised to shield them from regulation, and food companies battling a ballot measure to add labeling requirements.”  In other words, when brought to light it can be shown to very directly affect policy-making.

  • Compared to federal elections, it doesn’t take as much money to have influence at the state level.  Therefore these large increases in Gray Money are particularly problematic. 

Let’s let lobbyist and former Republican majority whip in the Arizona House of Representatives, Chris Herstam, sum it up: “In my 33 years in Arizona politics and government, dark money is the most corrupting influence I have seen.” 

When one watches election ads on TV or social media postings regarding political campaigns it’s not difficult to imagine how all this new cash is used, negatively and often without the consumer knowing whose dollars are behind it.   So it isn’t surprising that in an October 2023 poll 72 percent of Americans said “there should be limits on the amount of money individuals and organizations can spend on political campaigns.”  Contrary to the Citizens’ United ruling merely 11 percent of those polled said persons and organizations should be able to spend unlimited amounts. 

What can we do to stem this rising tide of Big, Dark and Gray Money to our elected officials, campaigns for public office, and elections?  Because Citizens’ United was decided by the Supreme Court and granted constitutional rights, the Court must reverse itself or we must enact a constitutional amendment overturning it.  Given the composition of the Supreme Court a constitutional amendment is the only realistic option.  

The We the People Act, House Joint Resolution 54 in the present Congress, would overturn Citizens’ United and put the authority to regulate campaign finance back where it belongs, with the People’s representatives in Congress, as well as rein in corporate power (more at www.movetoamend.org).  Urge your federal representatives to co-sponsor this urgently needed anti-corruption measure. 

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Talking Points on Corporate Constitutional Rights


  1. Democracy is founded on the premise that the People are the source of all power.

  2. We the People’ created corporations as tools to serve us, not themselves. As sovereigns we can regulate and restrict corporations as we see fit. The Supreme Court’s invention of constitutional rights for corporations has turned this fundamental principle on its head.

  3. For the first 100 plus years of our history, corporations were strictly controlled and had no constitutional rights.  Corporations could not even exist unless state legislation—called charters—created them.

  4. Statutes created corporations to give them the powers needed to conduct business for the peoples’ benefit. Logic dictates that corporations have only those rights granted them by statute. Statutes cannot create constitutional rights.

  5. Corporations do not need constitutional rights to conduct business. Logically, an entity created to serve people should not have the same constitutional rights as those people it is supposed to serve.

  6. Corporations are not mentioned in the Constitution. So the framers did not think they should have constitutional rights (CRs.) But, starting with the 1819 Dartmouth case, SCOTUS inserted corporations into the Constitution and progressively invented CRs for corporations, giving corporations most of the same constitutional rights as natural persons like you and me.

  7. The corporate constitutional rights doctrine created by SCOTUS is not supported by logic, history or law. SCOTUS has never explained why artificial entities like corporations should have the same constitutional rights as natural persons when corporations do not need CRs to do business and  have special advantages that individual persons do not have, e.g. perpetual life and limited liability.

  8. The Supreme Court's CCR jurisprudence has used ever shifting rhetorical devices and rationales for reaching the desired result in any given case. This incoherent and undemocratic  body of law exists in defiance of the purpose and plain meaning of the constitutional text. For example  SCOTUS “found" CCRs under the 14th Amendment, created to ensure the rights of former slaves, the text of which applies only to “All persons born or naturalized in the United States” which corporations cannot be. 

  9. The SCOTUS-created CCR doctrine fueled corporate power to the point that the modern multinational corporation is the most dominant institution on earth, dwarfing many countries in wealth, power and influence.

  10. This court-made CCR doctrine has allowed corporations to abuse and harm the human beings they are supposed to serve. In addition to using their so-called free speech rights under the First Amendment to buy politicians, corporations have used other CCRs such as the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to undemocratically impose pollution, water contamination, environmental destruction, harm to workers and other assaults on unwilling local communities and individuals in derogation of local control, the police power, and democracy itself.

  11. A series of Supreme Court decisions created the same political free speech rights for corporations under the First Amendment as originally belonged only to  natural persons. This allows corporations to spend  enormous amounts of corporate money to influence politics, policy and who gets elected to public office.   This tsunami of unregulated, undisclosed money drowns  out the people’s voice which is neither heard nor heeded.*

  12. “A majority of people want reforms such as lower drug prices, greater\affordable health care,  climate change reduction, and infrastructure repair.” But what the people want rarely gets enacted because Congress relies on large donor and corporate campaign contributions which makes Congress beholden to their wealthy donors instead of the people they should represent. And, even if these reforms were enacted, they could be toppled if SCOTUS found they violated some corporation’s constitutional rights.  

  13. SCOTUS has used two contradictory analogies to give free speech rights to corporations.


One, the association or partnership analogy imagines that the corporation is a mere aggregation of its shareholder members and merely speaks for them. But shareholders do not own the corporation, they own stock in it. Also, many shareholders are corporations themselves.  This theory is flawed on several grounds. Because corporate law imposes a fiduciary duty on corporate officers to maximize profits, its officials cannot make decisions that represent the values of any human being. Human shareholders have values and interests other than maximizing the corporation’s profits.  Also, the corporation’s wealth derives from many other stakeholders, e.g., its employees and consumers, with divergent interests of their own. The corporation misappropriates the wealth contributed by these stakeholders when it spends corporate money to influence politics and policy. The association theory is also inconsistent with limited liability.

 The other, entity theory, is that the corporation is an independent entity, separate from its human members. As such, it is an independent speaker with its own views and that denying or restricting its voice violates the First Amendment because the public is denied the ability to hear what the corporation has to say. (Note: it turns out that the  human public only gets to hear what the corporations want them to hear while, because of the right not to speak, the public does not get to hear what they want to hear—e.g, what’s in the products we use.  This theory is also flawed because corporations cannot exist without being created by a government which lacks the power to create CRs.

    SCOTUS has used both of these contradictory theories in the same case—e.g., CU.

*Cite  https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf See also, professors Joshua Kalla and Ethan Porter,“Politicians Don’t Actually Care What Voters Want.” A two year survey revealed that “an overwhelming majority of legislators were uninterested in learning about their constituents views” and that “for most politicians, voters’ views seemed almost irrelevant.https://osf.io/c2sp6/ . For a brief description of this study, see “Politicians Don’t Care What youThink”, N.Y. Times, OP-ED, A-23, July 11, 2019.


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