Representative John Olver today highlighted the groundswell of support for limiting the power of corporations and wealthy individuals in U.S. elections, noting that more than twenty separate localities within his district had approved resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling.
"The level of grassroots involvement on this issue is remarkable, and I thank the citizens of Western Massachusetts for making their voices heard," said Rep. Olver.
While similar resolutions have been passed across the country, the first district has seen a particularly high level of activity, with twenty-one separate localities adopting resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United decision. Amherst, Ashfield, Buckland, Colrain, Conway, Cummington, Deerfield, Great Barrington, Leverett, Lanesborough, Montague, Monterey, Otis, Pelham, Rowe, Sheffield, Shelburne, Shutesbury, Warwick, Wendell and Williamstown have all, independently, passed such resolutions.
"I am grateful for the support expressed at the local level for the ongoing effort to blunt the impact of the Citizens United decision. It is vital to the health of our democracy that our electoral process is not inundated with unlimited corporate funds and that our constitutional tradition maintains a firm distinction between the rights of an actual human being and those of a corporate entity."
Rep. Olver is a cosponsor of several pieces of federal legislation that attempt to correct this situation, including three proposed Constitutional amendments. H.J.Res. 78 proposes a Constitutional amendment clarifying that Congress and the states have the authority to regulate corporations' ability to spend money on political activities. H.J.Res. 88 proposes an amendment clarifying that the words "person" and "citizen" in the Constitution refer to natural persons and not corporate entities. H.J.Res. 90 proposes an amendment that combines the provisions of H.J.Res. 78 and H.J.Res. 88. All are currently referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
In the interests of transparency and electoral fairness, Rep. Olver also encourages the House to pass the DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 4010). The DISCLOSE Act requires public reporting by Super PACs, corporations, unions and outside groups within 24 hours of making a campaign expenditure or transferring funds of $10,000 or more to other groups for campaign related activity. The bill also requires all leaders of corporations and other outside groups that make campaign ads to publicly stand by the ads they paid for, stating that they "approve this message."
"Such common-sense rules would ensure that citizens at least know who is spending money to influence them, taking the secrecy out of outside spending and Super PAC activity," said Rep. Olver. "Finally passing the DISCLOSE Act is the biggest thing we can do to ensure transparency and Congress should do so at once."
Additionally, the Congressman is a cosponsor of H.R. 2517, the Shareholder Protection Act of 2011, which would require a shareholder vote before publicly-traded corporations can spend money on political activity.
The Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case gave corporations and wealthy individuals the power to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaign advertisements. Since the Supreme Court's decision, Super PACs and corporations have spent record amounts of money in elections nationwide, reaching totals of $294.2 million in the last election cycle.
Rep. Olver welcomed the groundswell of support from all corners of his district for Congressional efforts to combat this alarming trend, saying, "I'm proud to see state and local governments standing up against handing control of elections to corporations and a handful of extremely wealthy individuals. If we want government that is truly responsive and representative, we need to limit the role that corporations and Super PACs can play."
As of May 23, 2012, 555 groups organized as Super PACs have reported receiving $216,143,964 and spending $112,737,727 in the 2012 election cycle. Overall spending in the 2012 election is predicted to reach up to $8 billion.