My Turn: On campaign finance, it’s time for citizen action

Last modified: 7/6/2015 11:31:22 PM
Is Congress ever going to let us vote on a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United?

Last September, the Democracy for All amendment died in a Senate filibuster. Despite the fact that a majority of senators supported it, a minority – including New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte – used a procedural roadblock to kill the amendment for the legislative session.

Sen. Ayotte is not listening to her constituents on this issue. The fact is, more than two-thirds of Granite Staters support amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United. But Sen. Ayotte thinks we’re all wrong.

Worse than that. She is so out-of-touch that her form letter to constituents on this issue quotes Sen. Ted Kennedy and the ACLU. Doesn’t she know that an overwhelming majority of New Hampshire Republicans want to overturn Citizens United, too? GOP voters aren’t going to be mollified by out-of-context quotes from liberal sources.

Ironically, her Kennedy quote provides even more evidence that we need to amend the Constitution. Back in 1997, Congress was debating a constitutional amendment to overturn Buckley v. Valeo, the ruling that equated political money with political speech. Kennedy – along with “a large number of experts” and “prominent lawyers” – expected the Supreme Court to quickly reverse itself on Buckley. We all know that didn’t happen. Instead, the court upheld and expanded that precedent in Citizens United.

It’s been almost 40 years since Buckley. Are we supposed to keep waiting for the Supreme Court to reverse itself?

It’s been almost 130 years since the Supreme Court invented corporate personhood in Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific. Lots of people – including Justices Hugo Black and William Douglas – believed that decision would be reversed. But that hasn’t happened; after Hobby Lobby, corporations even have religious rights. How long are we going to wait for the Supreme Court to fix the problem it created?

It’s time to pass a constitutional amendment and restore “government for the people” – living, breathing, flesh-and-blood people. So far, 69 New Hampshire municipalities have passed resolutions calling for an amendment. The state House of Representatives passed a resolution. The state Senate unanimously passed a bill acknowledging the need for an amendment.

Is Sen. Ayotte going to keep standing in the way?

Is she going to keep blocking the amendment, in deference to the organizations that spent $2 million to help her win the Senate seat in 2010? Or is it a down payment on next year’s election, expecting support from the same groups that spent $14 million on Scott Brown?

It’s time for citizen action. We can’t wait for the Supreme Court to come to its senses. We can’t wait for the same politicians who benefit from this corrupt system to get around to fixing it. It’s time for people to come together and change things.

Calling her office. Writing op-eds. Joining the NH Rebellion. Showing up at political events and making this an issue the candidates can’t ignore.

And stamping. Get yourself a rubber stamp from the Stamp Stampede and start beautifying your bucks with anti-corruption messages. Every dollar you stamp will be seen by about 875 people – it’s like making miniature mobile billboards that help spread the #GetMoneyOut movement.

Marking money has a long history in supporting political change. The Romans scarred their coins with slash marks across the faces of emperors they despised. British suffragettes carved “votes for women” messages into pennies. During the Troubles in Northern Ireland, both sides stamped slogans onto the others’ coins.

The Stamp Stampede is leading the way, here and now. Get yourself a stamp and start stamping. It’s time to stop waiting on the Supreme Court, stop waiting on our politicians, and take matters into our own hands. Otherwise, Sen. Ayotte and others in Congress are going to keep throwing up roadblocks.

The situation has been getting worse for almost 130 years. Isn’t it time to vote on a constitutional amendment, and finally fix it?

(Craig Yergeau lives in Bedford.)

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