In near zero degree temperatures and after officials declared a citywide snow emergency, more than 50 protesters gathered outside Kastenmeier Federal Courthouse Friday as part of a nationwide protest against unlimited corporate spending in elections.
The protest commemorates the second anniversary of the Jan. 21, 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, which in a 5-4 decision, ruled the First Amendment prohibits the government from placing political contribution limits on corporations.
Friday’s rally leaders said the ultimate goal is to reverse the 2010 decision to gain a greater presence of democracy across the United States.
“We’re working to overturn Citizens United because we believe in the value of a true democratic government; a government of, by and for the people not of, by and for the corporation,” Sierra Pope, co-chair of South Central Wisconsin Move to Amend said. “[Citizens United] has created a pro-corporate agenda in our country, which despite snowstorms and the current visibility of about half a mile, we can still see very clearly.”
Mindy Preston, a member of SCWMA, said Citizens United also made corporations indistinguishable from people by giving them free speech in the form of political contributions.
Preston said citizens need to demand an amendment to the Constitution to eliminate corporate personhood. She said about 15,000 people in Madison signed a petition demanding an amendment in fall 2010.
Citizens also signed a petition to have a resolution put on the city and county ballot that stated Madison and Dane County residents do not support Citizens United, do not believe corporations are people and want a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision, Pope said.
The resolution passed in Dane County with more than 132,000 votes, and volunteers are now working to demand the amendment at town halls and city council chambers across the nation, Preston said.
Seventy-six percent of the American public came out in opposition of the Citizens United decision, Rothschild said.
Mike McCabe, executive director of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, said Citizens United also led to the creation of SuperPACs, which organized to help presidential candidates. The court ruled these do not give rise to corruption because they operate independently from the candidates.
However, McCabe said with presidential candidate aides, associates and business partners can run SuperPACs and the same firm that produces the candidate’s ads can also produce the SuperPACs as long as there is no coordination.
“That’s what the Supreme Court gave us – sheer and unadulterated lunacy,” McCabe said.
Since Madison passed its resolution banning corporate personhood, the city councils of New York City, Los Angeles and other cities throughout the country have passed similar resolutions, Pope said. She said state legislators are working with SCWMA to pass a resolution to ban corporate personhood in Wisconsin.
Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said state legislators plan to introduce a resolution to end corporate personhood. She also said while amending the federal constitution to get rid of the Citizens United decision is important, it is also important to change the state constitution to make it clear Wisconsin will not allow corporate contributions.
Protesters also sang anti-corporation songs as group organizers passed around hand warmers. Pope said the event is one of a 130 happening at court houses throughout the country.