Democracy Initiative Partners and Allies Release Statements Following
Senate Vote on Democracy for All Amendment
Amendment galvanizes coalition fighting to overturn Citizens United
Washington, DC – Today, Democracy Initiative coalition partners and allies released statements following the Senate vote on the Democracy for All constitutional amendment following a week-long debate. With 55 Democrats unanimously supporting the amendment, but failing the 67 vote threshold, it is clear that public pressure is mounting to end the post-Citizens United regime of unlimited dark money threatening our democracy.
Continue reading for statements released by Democracy Initiative partners and allies.
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From Miles Rapoport, Common Cause President:
“Opponents of the Democracy for All Amendment have spent the past three days arguing that the amendment is a dangerous attack on the First Amendment. Their votes today expose them as the real opponents of free speech, maintaining a system that lets a few wealthy Americans drown out the voices of millions of their fellow citizens.
“Still, today’s vote is a critical and positive step on the long march toward sensible limits on political spending. While we’re disappointed that the amendment didn’t get the 60 votes needed to move it to final passage in the Senate, we’re pleased that a majority of senators are now on record rejecting the Supreme Court’s assertion that money is speech. They have said that big ideas, not big money, should rule in the public square.”
From Larry Cohen, Communications Workers of America (CWA) President:
“It is distressing to see the polarization of the U.S. Supreme Court, and now the Senate, on the critical issue of getting big money out of our politics. Every Democrat in the Senate has stood up for the ability of Congress to set reasonable limits on money in politics. Every Republican has voted for no limits, even though many had previously supported reform, led by Senator John McCain.
“This vote is a huge marker as to what America is becoming. We are on our way to control by the wealthy of nearly all aspects of public and economic policy. As workers, we see our rights trampled every day. This has only worsened over the past 40 years, as the Chamber of Commerce continues its relentless focus on wiping out any balance between the voice of working Americans and management.
“Today’s vote makes it clear that the Republican Senate is joined at the hip with the billionaires who increasingly dominate our lives and prevent fair elections and real debate on the critical issues of the day. We will continue to build the Democracy Initiative and work as broadly as possible with millions of Americans to change this, not only by amendment but by adopting fair disclosure rules, public financing at the state level and many other measures that enable citizens to Stand Up and Fight Back.”
From Heather McGhee, Demos President:
“Demos applauds the Senate for debating and voting this week on the Democracy for All resolution, which would clarify that the People have the power to curb the influence of big money on our democracy.
“Although a minority of senators blocked the resolution from moving forward, a robust debate was a victory and an important step in the national conversation about the undemocratic role of big money in American politics.
“And, the debate on amending the Constitution helps amplify another way to fix the damage the Supreme Court has done to our democracy with cases such as Citizens United and its horrifying 2014 sequel McCutcheon v. FEC. The Court can also reverse course on money in politics, like the justices have done before on New Deal economic protections, racial segregation, LGBT rights, and more.
“The promise of American democracy is that we are all afforded an equal say over the policies that shape our lives. Instead, today’s campaign finance system allows wealthy donors and corporate interests to use million-dollar megaphones to influence government, drowning out the voices of the 99 percent of Americans who don’t make large campaign donations. The Constitution should not tolerate our public debates descending into proxy fights between billionaires and CEOs.”
From David Donnelly, Every Voice Action CEO:
“Sen. McConnell spent his week defending the ability of millionaires and billionaires to buy unlimited access and influence in Washington. Kentucky voters beware: If McConnell has his way, big donors, super PACs, and lobbyists will have even more power in Washington than they currently enjoy, further drowning out the ideas and needs of regular people from Kentucky and across America.”
From Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch Executive Director :
“Today, a minority of the Senate voted down the Udall Amendment, along with a chance to minimize the influence of money in our politics. In defeating the Udall Amendment, these senators chose to side with the Koch Brothers and sent a loud message to American voters that the true voice in politics belongs to those with big coffers.
“So long as corporations and a handful of very wealthy donors are allowed to buy elections, efforts to protect our common resources such as food and water will continue to be at risk. Today’s vote is further evidence that we must continue to organize to pass this amendment and restore some common sense to how we fund political campaigns.”
From the Franciscan Action Network:
“Today’s 54-42 vote on the Udall Amendment, SJ Res. 19 which would have helped remove the roadblock of unlimited, anonymous campaign contributions instituted by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, shows that progress is being made to give democracy back to the people.”
Each American’s vote should count equally, but unchecked and unlimited campaign contributions drown out the voices of the many in favor of the few. A majority of Americans recognize this as a problem that our country faces, and so do a majority in the United States’ Senate. While the measure did not get enough votes to pass, FAN appreciates that a simple majority of Senators voted in favor of SJ Res. 19 and will continue to work to ensure that each American has their voice heard equally.
From John Bonifaz, Co-Founder and President of Free Speech for People: “The vote marks a huge milestone for the growing grassroots movement for the 28th Amendment. Across the political spectrum, Americans want a constitutional amendment which will reclaim our democracy. In just four years since the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, millions of citizens across the country have propelled this movement to overturn the Supreme Court and to defend our Republic. Sixteen states have already gone on record calling for such an amendment, including the states of Montana and Colorado where 75% of the voters in the 2012 election supported ballot initiatives demanding an amendment. More than 550 cities and towns are also already on record, as are more than 100 Republican officials who have voted for legislative resolutions urging the US Congress to pass an amendment bill and send it to the states for ratification”.
From Annie Leonard, Greenpeace USA Executive Director:
“This week’s Senate debate on the Democracy for All Amendment was a watershed moment: sending a clear message to all dirty energy advocates that the people no longer want their money dominating our elections. Opposition to the amendment suggests that there’s still far too many politicians allied with the fossil fuel industry, even though the effects of climate change will impact us all. We will keep calling out those funding climate denial until we have clean elections and clean energy.”
For more details of funding for climate denial, see Greenpeace’s new report The Kingpins of Carbon and Their War on Democracy, out this week.
From Gene Karpinski, League of Conservation Voters President:
“The special interests that are polluting our air, water and climate are the same ones that are polluting our democracy. People across the country are frustrated by the influence wielded by those who can write the biggest check and bend government’s will to benefit those who pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink. The Senate should pass this amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s disastrous decisions and re-establish what our Founders intended – a government that answers to the people, not super wealthy corporations.”
From Hillary O. Shelton, NAACP Washington Bureau Director & Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy:
“Amending the Constitution is hard, but real democracy has never been easy. Today’s historic first vote on the Democracy for All Amendment in the US Senate is a reflection of the momentum that is building as more and more Americans work to have their voices heard through the votes they cast. Already 16 states and hundreds of local governments across the country have called on Congress to take action, showing strong public support for reform from all sides of the political spectrum. While the Senate did not garner the 67 votes needed for passage, the NAACP is encouraged by today’s 55 votes and will continue to work to secure the needed 12. Amending the US Constitution is an arduous process that changes our nation’s most important governing document. Once adopted, the Democracy for All Amendment will become a core measure in our nation’s laws and democratic values.”
From Eskelsen García, NEA President:
“By not allowing S.J. Res 19 to come to an up or down vote, too many in the U.S. Senate have yet again bowed to corporate manipulators like the Koch brothers, the Walton family and ALEC. These groups continue use the Citizens United decision to stifle the voices of America’s workers and voters by making sure their fiscal interests and voice come before the interests of working families. The power to speak freely is a hollow freedom for the millions of Americans whose voice is drowned out by the booming echo of big money posing as free speech.
“The only way for everyday working Americans to fight back is with our vote this November and in every election. We must remind politicians that they work for us, and not corporations. If our Congress will not work in our best interests, we must elect leaders who will.”
From Marge Baker, People for the American Way Executive Vice President:
“Less than five years after the Citizens United decision sparked national outrage, we have seen the movement to get big money out of politics go from local, grassroots organizing to a vote in the United States Senate. Today’s historic majority vote is a remarkable milestone for this movement and a platform for taking the fight to the next level. The debate in the Senate this week is a debate that Americans across the country who are passionate about fixing our broken democracy have wanted to see.
“The fight for a constitutional amendment is never easy. It’s not supposed to be. The women’s suffrage amendment ratified in 1920 was first introduced in Congress in 1878. But the grassroots activists pushing for this — who made more than 15,000 calls to Senate offices on the amendment this week alone, who have pushed successfully for hundreds of state and local resolutions, and who have signed more than 3.2 million petitions — aren’t afraid of a tough fight.
“We know that powerful, entrenched interests will continue to try to block the amendment, but we won’t stop pushing until it becomes a reality. Anyone who doubts that underestimates the American people.”
From Nick Nyhart, Public Campaign President and CEO:
“An overwhelming majority of the American people support efforts to rein in our unsustainable campaign finance system and now they know who is on their side in Washington, DC. This week’s debate on the Democracy for All amendment was an important benchmark in the crucial fight to create a democracy that’s truly of, by, and for the people.”
From Robert Weissman, Public Citizen President:
“Today’s historic vote will be remembered as an important moment in the democracy movement’s successful effort to win a constitutional amendment to rescue our elections, our politics and our country from the scourge of Big Money dominance.
“We owe thanks to the Senate champions who brought forward the legislation, fought for a vote and explained so eloquently on the Senate floor why our country desperately needs the Democracy for All Amendment. But today’s achievement is much more a testament to the growing grassroots movement that refuses to cede control of our nation to a relative handful of corporations and the super-rich.”
From Mike Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director:
“The fight to get corrupting money out of politics has now begun in earnest, and the American people now have crystal-clear evidence about who is on their side and who is with the billionaire big polluters.
No one ever thought this fight would be easy. Nothing is when you challenge the broken status quo that big corporations and their political allies desperately cling to in order to preserve their power. But they are fighting a battle they will ultimately lose, because they are going up against a massive, broad grassroots movement fuelled by the support of a vast majority of the American people.
Washington remains the only place in America where getting money out of politics is a partisan issue. Everywhere else, huge majorities of the American public understand that corrupting money is distorting our government’s priorities and driving all progress on the issues they care about to a halt – and they want immediate action to fix it. Securing a vote on this amendment is just the first step, and the Sierra Club is committed to working with partners across the aisle and across the spectrum to sustain the efforts to return our government to the people.”
From Mike Russo, U.S. PIRG Federal Program Director:
“Today’s vote was an incredible milestone in the fight to reclaim our democracy.The Citizens United decision unleashed a tide of big money from mega-donors and super PACs into our elections, which has threatened to drown out the voices of ordinary Americans. In the 2012 elections, just 32 super PAC donors spent as much as all 3.7 million small donors to Mitt Romney and President Obama combined, and year after year, we’ve seen campaign spending records shattered.
“But far from accepting this as a new status quo, Americans have been fighting back. In just a few short years, 16 states and more than 550 cities and localities across the country have enacted resolutions calling on Congress to pass an amendment to overturn Citizens United. Today, a majority of the U.S. Senate answered that call.
“Amending the Constitution was never meant to be easy, but we know that the public overwhelmingly supports getting big money out of politics. Today’s vote is just the beginning, and marks a big step forward in the movement to reclaim our democracy.
The Democracy Initiative (DI) is a coalition of 50 civil rights, environmental, labor, and civic organizations formed to restore the core principles democracy and political equality. Originally formed in 2012, the DI represents more than 30 million members nationwide.