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July 28, 2014
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editorial

Stuffing ballot boxes


Looking at the Bloomingburg case as an example, when citizens learn about stuffing-the-ballot-box shenanigans in their own municipality, they tend to express indignation, if not complete outrage. Yet when the corrupting influence of limitless campaign contributions in presidential and congressional elections, in state governors’ races and, yes, mayoral elections, citizens mostly sit and accept it. It seems obvious to us that silence is not going to fix the corrupting influence of money in Washington, DC, in statehouses, or anywhere else. We believe outrage is called for, and action. Citizens in large numbers need to demand real campaign finance reform. The laws we have, already insufficient to counter the corrupting influence of money, are slowly being dismantled by the Supreme Court.

In our opinion, Citizens United v. FEC is among the Robert’s court’s worst decisions. It allows corporations, unions and super PACs to spend unlimited amounts of money advocating for the election or defeat of candidates. In effect it likens corporations to people with the same free-speech rights as citizens under the First Amendment and likens money to speech. To the average non-lawyer citizen, the idea that corporations are people and money is speech defies common sense, and around the country a number of organizations are working to promote a constitutional amendment to abolish this idea (see www.wethepeopleamendment.org; www.followthemoney.org; www.democracyisforpeple.org; www.commoncause.org; https://movetoamend.org) to name a few.

There are two ways to amend the constitution: by a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the state legislatures. (After that, voters in each state must ratify the amendment.)

It seems that an ever growing number of citizens believe there is little hope that Congress will pass effective campaign finance reform the halls of public office, and so they work for a constitutional convention. The underlying question is: without campaign finance reform does democracy have a chance?