This afternoon, Congressman Jim McGovern kicked off a "People's Rights" Tour at Suffolk Law School, where he was joined by Attorney General Martha Coakley, State Senator Jamie Eldridge, State Representative Marty Walz, State Representative Cory Atkins, Harvard Law Professor John Coates, American Sustainable Business Council CEO David Levine, and Free Speech for People co-founders John Bonifaz and Jeff Clements.
Congressman McGovern introduced two constitutional amendments to overturn Citizens United in Washington D.C. on Tuesday.
The first amendment, HJ Res 20, would restore Congress' and the states' authority to regulate campaign spending.
The second amendment, HJ Res 21, would overturn Citizens United and clarify that constitutional rights apply to living persons, not corporations. This “People’s Rights Amendment” protects the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances.
When asked about a timeline for measuring progress, he said, "We're using procedural motions to offer amendments. We need to prove that there is a debate. Speaker Boehner isn't going to bring this up on the floor. This isn't going to happen overnight."
McGovern also referenced the Warren-Brown Senate race "People's Pledge," that was aimed at curbing the financial influence of third-party groups. "Look at the pact Warren and Brown made but look how much money they had to raise." The campaigns spent a combined $70 million dollars for the Senate race.
Congressman McGovern reiterated, "The whole point is to empower ordinary people. Ordinary people should have a bigger say about what happens to them than a corporation. There's no better way to even the playing field than to get the money out of politics."
The movement to overturn Citizens United has been growing across the country. During the most recent election, voters in Montana and Colorado approved ballot measures by nearly three to one margins. Montana, a traditionally Republican- leaning state, passed I-166, the Stand with Montanans measure, declaring that corporations are not people.
While most other states have not risen to this level of discontent, many are getting there. Nine other states, including Massachusetts, passes resolutions calling for amendments in their legislatures.
Attorney General Coakley was recognized by McGovern and Bonifaz for leading the national effort by being the first Attorney General to call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United in 2011.
On a state level, Massachusetts Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representatives Marty Walz and Cory Atkins have worked to pass the Massachusetts Disclosure Act, which would update political spending disclosure laws to include disclosure requirements for corporations. It unanimously passed the Senate in June of 2012, but has failed to come up for a vote in the House.
Representative Cory Atkins said, "I applaud the Congressman for the amendment and I'm delighted to work with Representative Walz on the Disclosure Bill. They didn't make corporations citizens. They made them super citizens who can do things you and I can't do! We can only get a limited amount of money. As a candidate, I have to disclose every dollar that comes to me so that everyone can know what is going on. Common Cause really pushed the pedal to the metal, and we got over 79% of that vote (in 2010). Millions of people saw how dangerous this can be."
Representatives from MASSPirg, Common Cause, MassVOTE, and Occupy Boston were also present.