Vote to overturn Citizens United decision

To the Editor:

Citizens United, a conservative advocacy group, accepted corporate funding to create a 90-minute attack film against a presidential candidate. Fearing that the Federal Election Commission and laws on campaign finance would prevent them from establishing it as a video-on-demand, they sued the FEC.

The U.S. Supreme Court in its 5-4 decision went much further by overturning the previous century of case history and legislation on financial campaign reform. The court ruled that corporations have the unrestricted right to spend money to influence elections guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Essentially, they established the principle that corporations are persons and money is free speech.

Since this decision, an enormous amount of money from corporations, as well as wealthy individuals, has poured into national and state political campaigns laundered through front organizations such as Citizens United. Many of these fronts are 401 (c)(4) “social welfare” organizations that can spend 49 percent of their incomes to influence political campaigns without having to disclose their financial donors. By targeting certain campaigns and working with corporate and industry lobbyists, this money can be channeled to threaten particular candidates with funding of their opponents’ campaigns, thus corrupting our political system.

And there is no way for the public to know who is behind the corruption. This makes it much harder to advance legislation in the public interest that affects corporations such as health care, environmental safety, Wall Street excesses, workers’ rights, consumer protection, monopolistic practices, business tax loopholes, etc.

Because freedom of religion is also guaranteed by the First Amendment, legislators from Arizona recently decided that religious freedom of corporations could also be used to restrict access to customers who violate the religious beliefs of the corporation – a thinly disguised bill to discriminate against gays. Fortunately, Arizona’s governor was smart enough to veto this bill since it would have created a very large loss of revenue to the state.

Both of these applications of the Citizens United decision dilute the freedoms of individuals while transferring basic rights intended for persons to corporations. Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations, as well as several presidents including Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower, have warned about the damage to free market capitalism and our form of government by the unrestrained concentration of power in large businesses.

A nationwide effort sponsored by several cooperating organizations to overturn the Citizens United decision has come to New Hampshire. Thirteen state legislatures and more than 500 cities and towns in the U.S. have already passed resolutions to support this effort. On March 11, the ballots of 26 New Hampshire towns, including Amherst and Milford, will include these resolutions as petition warrant articles (41 in Amherst and 25 in Milford).

Please defend individual freedom in New Hampshire and the U.S. by voting for these petition warrant articles.