March 8, 2012

During Super Tuesday, State’s Voters Showed “Broadest Grassroots Uprising Yet Against the Citizens United Ruling”

There’s a lot to like about the state of Vermont: cheddar cheese, Chubby Hubby, maple syrup, and the Green Mountains. And now, a thorough rejection of corporate personhood.

Yesterday, in what the Associated Press called “the most concerted effort” to amend the U.S. Constitution to declare that corporations are not people, 58 Vermont communities voted in support of an amendment that would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. Vermont’s 58 towns join cities including Portland, Maine, New York, and Los Angeles in passing measures repudiating Citizens United.

The calls for reform in Vermont represent, “the broadest grassroots uprising yet against the Citizens United ruling,” observed journalist John Nichols, speaking on Democracy Now yesterday.

Vermont has a long history of participatory democracy. Citizens have gathered at Town Meeting Day, the first Tuesday of March, for over 200 years. This year, they focused on getting money out of politics:

“People are starting to put the pieces together; they’re all doing it all at the same time, all across the country,” said Bill Butler, of Jericho, who helped write the proposal being considered by many Vermont towns.

“You start putting these together, I think you have the beginning of the most dynamic political movement in this country. It’s because people are realizing they have to do it and they have to do it now.”

Citizens United is one of a series of decisions and laws that have paved the way for corporations, unions, and people to raise and spend unlimited campaign funds via super PACs. “Corporate personhood” is a legal concept that gives corporations similar rights (including freedom of speech) to individual people.


  • I agree with Bill Butler’s statement that this is the beginning of the most dynamic political movement in this country. Campaign finance reform is not a novel idea. Our society seems to be addicted to this cycle of creating rules and then creating exceptions to them and then interpreting the rules and exceptions in court through litigation … wash, rinse and repeat cycle. Although the current specific efforts are focused primarily on overturning Citizens United, there is a “broader” grassroots uprising. Before Citizens United in 2010, plenty of money influenced elections. Quite frankly, whether we have a pre-2009 campaign finance playing field or a post-2010 one makes very little difference. The system is broken and shifting the levers is woefully insufficient. Actually I find it quite insulting to continue with the legal jargon and political rhetoric of “change” when in reality these discussions are about slight power shifts among the autocratic elite at the complete exclusion of the citizen’s voice. If we want a different result then we have to do something different. The election process as we have known it imprisons the voice of the average citizen. We must overhaul the process to have a voice.

    • Indeed. The corporate personhood issue is also much older and much deeper than Citizens United. Greater systemic change is needed and not a a deck reshuffling.

    • Kelleher_jennifer

      You, as all of us do, have some wonderful, insightful ideas, but the status quo does not want change. The corporations might say they want change, but really, they like it the way it is. Sad, like the “SAD” American diet.

      Like Reply

    • Laird Monahan

      If you feel insulted by the current rhetoric, where is your outrage? Most of your post sounds defeatist to me. Am I wrong? Show me! I would love to be wrong. As the good citizens of Vermont have shown, the revolutionary spirit lives. All across the country, as shown by the Move to Amend website, ( the momentum is growing. For what it’s worth, I found this quote yesterday:
      “America was founded by undesirables, and built by non-conformists. We are a nation whose blood is thick with defiance and outright knock-out revolutionary badass anti-authoritarian hostility. We cut kings down to size.

      At least, we used to…” ~Brandon Smith

      It takes a militant electorate to establish and maintain true Democracy

  • more informed than you

    Vermonters are like those from Mo. They must be shown. They have been shown and don’t like corporations getting more votes than they do. My sister who lives in Bennington is disgusted and wants her country back.

  • Ron Good

    Nearly everyone agrees that Citizens United was a very bad decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. Corporations are not people, as Jeffrey Clements has shown so well in his recent book, and now citizens must act to take back our democracy from the big-money interests. Two actions come to mind: 1) Require that political contributions come from individual U.S. citizens, and 2) Limit contributions to $100 (or less) per citizen of voting age. No group contributions of any kind and no exceptions. Until big $$$ are removed from our political system we will not have a real democracy of, for, and by the people.

    Ron Good

    • Kelleher_jennifer

      You, as all of us do, have some wonderful, insightful ideas, but the status quo does not want change. The corporations might say they want change, but really, they like it the way it is. Sad, like the “SAD” American diet.

    • CatKinNY

      Limiting contributions to eligible voters, and making the amount nominal, is what needs to be done, but until we amend the constitution to affirm that money is not speech, nothing can be done. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the vast majority of Americans want this amendment (or would if they understood why it was necessary), and that includes most of the politicians, who honestly hate the huge amount of time they have to spend dialing for dollars.

    • Really?!?!?!?!?!

      If you had your wish the only GOP Candidate running right now would be Ron Paul. The big money want to elect a puppet that will change the laws to benefit them. Even though we the people voted in the representatives/senators to speak for us they only speak for their biggest corporate contributors. We must first reverse the rule made in the 1800’s that gave corporations personhood. I’m not sure when they made that ruling that 250 years later it would be abused for influence peddling.

  • The problem is much deeper than Citizens United. The very culture surrounding elections in our nation is horribly rancid. We are addicted to the products of campaign financing — the negative ads, the meaningless debates where little of real substance is discussed, etc. These products are available to us because there is money to be made in creating them; the money pouring into the campaign coffers. If it were up to those in the middle of profiting off of our consumption of these products the election cycle would last even longer than it does. Enough is enough. Regulate election advertising and limit the amount of pointless political junk food being produced for our consumption.

  • Lucy L Honeychurch

    Federalize all election (incl. judicial) campaign financing NOW.

  • Ninozah

    I’m all for it. It is a ridiculous and dangerous concept that humans and legal entities have similar rights and benefits. Especially when it comes to politics, democracy and one person one vote system.

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