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WV 12th State Calling for Amendment to Return Democracy to the People
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by Jim Sconyers, Chapter Chair | 2013

A coalition of good-government groups, including the West Virginia Sierra Club, successfully shepherded a resolution through both houses of the Legislature that asks Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to end the corrosive influence of corporate money in politics and restore constitutional rights to the people. The historic resolution passed with strong support in a Senate voice vote, following a 60-39 bipartisan vote in the House. This makes West Virginia the 12th state to call for this reform.
 
Momentum is building nationwide for a constitutional response to the flood of money from corporations and the ultrawealthy that has inundated elections since the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.


Uncle Sam tries to school the “Supremes” about what a person is — and why a corporation isn’t one!
photo by Jim Sconyers at Democracy Rally at Capitol, Feb 19
 
In West Virginia, the 2012 election brought special attention to the problem of money in politics, with the state launching a new pilot program for public funding in judicial races. Also, former Attorney General Darrell McGraw, who lost his re-election bid, was reportedly outspent by a margin of 6-to-1. This includes $1.6 million that went toward negative ads financed by the Center for Individual Freedom, an outside group that does not disclose its donors.
 
Today’s vote means that, since the Citizens United decision, 12 states and the District of Columbia have shown support for a constitutional amendment. About 500 local governments have called for an amendment, as have more than 125 members of Congress. President Barack Obama has expressed support for an amendment as well.
 
“I am pleased that the Senate joined the House in voting to send Congress this message calling for a constitutional amendment to correct the situation created by the Citizens United decision. Debate and free speech are crucial to our democracy, but a corporate interest, controlled by an anonymous select few, should not be able to spend an unlimited amount of money to spread its specific message,” said House Speaker Rick Thompson (D-Wayne).
 
Former Secretary of State Edgar (Hike) Heiskell, III said, “Passage of the resolution is something that should make every West Virginian proud, because overturning the effects of Citizens United is a burning issue in the United States, and West Virginia is now in the forefront of this movement Uncle Sam tries person is — and nationally. We hope all remaining states will join ranks with us and continue the march to get a constitutional amend-ment passed that will restore to our elections process the integrity and accountability that was destroyed by the Citi-zens United decision.” Heiskell previously served as chairman of the Committee on Election Reform of the National Association of Secretaries of State.

Leaders from some of the groups involved in the reso-lution campaign commented on the positive outcome in the Legislature.
 
“In the wake of an election with astro-nomical spending records, this resolu-tion by West Virginians sends a loud message that the people believe democracy is not for sale and constitutional rights are for people, not corporations. This passage came as a result of a powerful alliance between West Virginia labor, environmental and community groups. The call to limit corporate spending in elections resonates with people across the political spectrum and across the country who care about a wide range of issues. West Virginia is the first state this year and the 12th state to call for an amendment.
 
The tide in this country is turning,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Spending in our democratic process should include disclosure and transparency rules, but that alone is not enough. Our democracy should not be for sale to the high-est bidder, and constitutional rights should be preserved for individuals, not corporations. With another state added to the list of states calling for a constitutional amendment that will protect constitutional rights for people, we can hopefully apply more pressure on our federal representatives to lis-ten to the wishes of citizens not only in West Virginia but throughout the country,” said Elaine Harris, representative for Communications Workers of America.
 
The national campaign to overturn the Citizens United decision continues.
 

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