By: Tiffany Muller and Marie Henselder Kimmel
In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court made a disastrous decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission to allow corporations to pour vast amounts of money into the political system and it’s breaking the foundation of American democracy.
We know the Constitution says “We the People,” but lately it seems like it’s “We the billionaires and corporations.”
During campaigns, billions of dollars flood our TV screens but, too often, we don’t know who paid for those ads or who is influencing our democracy. Citizens United must be overturned to renew transparency and accountability in our democracy. Until we get money out of politics, it will continue to be the norm that voters’ voices aren’t heard.
Take the failure of anti-gun violence measures to move in Congress, despite the overwhelming public support to keep our communities safe. Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st Dist., one of the End Citizens United– endorsed candidates in New Jersey, tells us that during town halls people constantly ask, “Why has there been no action in Washington when we all support sensible reforms?”
The answer is obvious, but also sad and despicable.
Tragedy after tragedy comes and goes — Columbine, Virginia Tech, Newtown, Orlando, Las Vegas, San Bernardino, Aurora, Parkland and more — and a powerful, money-wielding group prevents the movement on solutions. The influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) is one of the clearest-cut examples of why we need campaign finance reform. In 2008, before Citizens United, the NRA spent $10 million, but in 2016 that number ballooned to $54 million, with more than $30 million spent on Donald Trump’s campaign alone.
The huge influence of the NRA has fueled a student- and parent-led cry for lawmakers to take action.
One bill in Congress that would help move our democracy back on track is the DISCLOSE Act. It would shine a light on “dark money” donations and require campaign ads to provide more information about who paid for the ad. A critical fix to the disastrous Citizens United decision is to permanently amend the Constitution to regulate contributions and expenditures, so all citizens — regardless of their net worth — have an equal voice in the political process. The Democracy For All Amendment Resolution proposes such an amendment and has been cosponsored by New Jersey Reps. Norcross, Albio Sires, D-8th Dist. and Bill Pascrell, 9th-Dist.
When President Trump and Republicans passed their tax bill last December, it helped special interests and billionaires save money, but New Jersey voters lost a critical tax deduction and will see huge tax increases.
That unfairness is obvious, but our system allowed this to happen. Many public servants aren’t voting based on the public’s interests at all. They’re voting at the whim of special interests, global corporations and the wealthiest few.
Republican leaders won’t even allow votes to raise wages for rank-and-file workers or to fix the broken pensions system. But they have moved to make healthcare more expensive and to give tax breaks to billionaires. What we have is a rigged system and it must be fixed!
We can start to fix it by remembering that elections have consequences.
It’s the votes we take now that will preserve our democracy for our children and grandchildren. We know there’s serious mistrust right now, and that many people want to avoid the system altogether and stay home on Election Day.
The only way to restore trust in politics is by showing up and voting for people who support campaign finance reform. Ask your candidate or Congress person where he or she stands on campaign finance reform. Encourage your candidates to support the Democracy For All Amendment if they are elected or re-elected to office so the flood of outside money can be stopped.
Remember, your vote is your voice, and you must use your vote at the polls this November to protect your voice.
Tiffany Muller is the president and executive director at End Citizens United, a Political Action Committee funded by grassroots donors that is dedicated to getting big money out of politics and reforming our campaign finance system.
Marie Henselder Kimmel represents TriCounty American Promise chapter of Camden, Burlington and Gloucester counties. American Promise is a cross-partisan, nonprofit organization of citizen advocates for a constitutional amendment to restore authority to Congress to set reasonable campaign spending limits.