To the Editor:
Your readers may be interested to know the result of petitions signed this year by hundreds of residents of Jackson, Macon, Haywood and Swain counties. These petitions called for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would nullify the 2010 Supreme Court ruling known as Citizens United.
Most of your readers will know that the 2010 Citizens United ruling, overturning the bipartisan McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act, has resulted in what we now see — vast amounts of anonymous money pouring into election campaigns. And that money being reported daily by journalists as an indication of who will win. The Citizens United 5-4 ruling giving corporations the rights of people and declaring that money is free speech has borne pretty awful fruit.
Because of grassroots pressure across North Carolina, bills were introduced in May in both N.C. House and Senate calling for this U.S. Constitutional Amendment. H 1201 had 12 sponsors; S 937, nine sponsors. A number of our Western North Carolina legislators sponsored or supported these bills. Despite citizen lobbying, the House and Senate leadership refused to send the bills to the floor for voting.
It is interesting that in a time of budget crises, the General Assembly leadership sees no need to stem the flow of money into politics. The corporate wealthy fight to reduce their taxes and spend obscene amounts of money to elect candidates who will oblige. What must that feel like for the North Carolina jobless, for people working three jobs to support their families, for the teachers without pay raises for five years?
You may be sure that this issue will not go away simply because the N.C. General Assembly leadership wants it to. Citizens who believe that corporations should not have the rights of people and that money is power, not speech, will be back again to raise this issue. Five states have already sent resolutions to Congress calling for this Amendment. North Carolina could be the sixth.
If you too feel that money is destroying our democracy, you need to speak up. If you signed a petition this year, circulate one this fall. If you complain to friends about money in politics, speak or write to your county commissioners and your legislators. Politicians won’t make changes until enough people demand that change.