Public Citizen - Defeating Citizens United Decision is a Bi-Partisan Issue

Op-Ed submitted on behalf of NH state Senator Fuller Clark and Representative Elliott.

The op-ed is below,

Thanks very much 

Sriharsha

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As Americans, we take pride in our Democracy and in the notion that in our Government we all have equal voice.  However, the New Hampshire legislature is currently debating the very meaning of this word. The State House and Senate will consider a constitutional amendment that would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling. On January 29th, ordinary citizens, both Republicans and Democrats, argued for its necessity at the Capitol in Concord. They understand that the Supreme Court decision has opened the floodgates to unlimited campaign spending in our State by outside groups, drowning out their voice and that of the average New Hampshire voter.  While an open debate on the best way to rally support for or against individual candidates is important, let it be clear that the citizens of New Hampshire have already overwhelmingly decided on the issue of allowing outside money to influence the outcome of our elections. 

 

According to a University of New Hampshire Survey Center Granite State Poll, 72 percent of residents have said they oppose the Citizens United ruling, and 69 percent saying that they would support a constitutional amendment that would limit outside campaign contributions and spending from special interest groups and corporations 1. Our citizens understand that the presence of money in politics means that politicians are not necessarily beholden to their citizens, but rather to special interests.

Ignoring the support of New Hampshire's citizenry for a constitutional amendment, those supporting defeat of HB and SB try to wedge a partisan divide by claiming that this is only a liberal issue. However, the fact remains that this issue is popular amongst voters across party lines - Republicans, Democrats and Undeclared. The average conservative voters understand that when outside money from special interests become the priority for their Representatives, their own voice is diminished. They understand that liberal special interest groups are no less culpable when it comes to big spending. For example, in the 2014 election, the top two highest spending superPACs in the country were both liberal.  Furthermore, the wealthy liberal donors, George Soros and Fred Eychaner spent more than the top 22 disclosed conservative donors including the Koch Brothers2. What proud conservative voter in New Hampshire would have outside liberal donors such as Mr. Soros and Mr. Eychanar speak louder than any one individual voter does in our state and local elections? 

 

For any American, whether liberal or conservative, we must face a harsh reality. A recent Princeton study demonstrates that America is no longer a Democracy, when any major policy initiative only gains traction with the Government after wealthy special interest groups fight for them 3. In this day and age, if you want your issue taken seriously, you better have a billionaire on your side. 

 

Detractors continue to argue that spending unlimited money for or against a politician is a matter of freedom of speech. But, by that logic, why not allow them to give unlimited amounts of money ("bribes") to a politician and call that freedom of speech? Why not allow lobbyists freedom of speech by allowing them to buy politicians free dinners and cruise trips as a means of gaining votes? Why shouldn't the voices with the most money be allowed to control our elections? Most of us do not believe that this is what the Founding Fathers intended when they passed the first amendment protecting freedom of speech or what the soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for our county meant when they spoke of freedom.  And that is why it is so important for our democracy that the Citizens United decision be overturned. 

 

Clearly, if the legislature should represent its people, there is only one outcome possible - the bills are currently being considered in both the New Hampshire House and Senate this week should resoundingly pass in both bodies. How can any politician who votes against this legislation claim to represent his or her constituents?

 

1       Azem Z., and Smith A., Granite State Poll: New Hampshire Coalition for Open Democracy. The Survey Center, University of New Hampshire.April, 2013. 

2       2014 Top Donors to Outside Spending Groups. <https://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/summ.php?cycle=2014&disp=D&type=V&superonly=N.>

3       Gilens M and Page B., Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average CitizensPerspectives on Politics. Vol. 12: 03. September, 2014, pp 564-581.