Two years ago, on January 21, 2010, a Supreme Court panel that included ex-Monsanto lawyer Clarence Thomas made a decision that has since changed the face of election campaigning. The landmark ruling in Citizens United v. FEC declared corporations to be people and, under the guise of the First Amendment, permitted the pumping of unlimited amounts of corporate money into politics, opening the floodgates for a corporate buyout of democracy. The decision, which undid over a century of campaign finance reform, passed 5-4. Monsanto’s Clarence Thomas provided the critical vote.
The failure of our democracy to respond to the many urgent crises facing the nation — high unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, and rapid global climate change — is a direct result of excessive corporate political influence. — Robert Weissman
In two short years, we have already seen the effects of this decision: As Michael Luo reports for the New York Times, Citizens United has unleashed “torrents of money, much of it anonymous... into House and Senate races across the country,” ensuring that industry favorites are elected to positions of power.
Though the Presidential primaries are barely getting off the ground, they've already become a disturbing illustration of this money-microphone. For one, Mitt Romney's victory in New Hampshire's Republican primary is attributed largely to the multimillion dollar super political action committee (Super PAC) that poured millions into his campaign. Conversely, his rival, Buddy Roemer — who did not accept campaign contributions over $100 or any donations from political action committees — wasn't even invited to one of the 17 Republican debates.
In the words of Bill McKibben, it’s time to get angry.
Fortunately, people across the nation are not only getting angry, they’re getting organized. From California to New York City, from Florida to Montana, people are standing up to demand a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United, withdraw corporate personhood rights and restore free and fair elections.
In support of this initiative, a broad coalition led by Public Citizen and supported by Pesticide Action Network is calling for a nationwide day of action — January 21 — to "occupy the corporations" and take back democracy for the people.