Citizens United Critics Fight Money With Money”

That’s the title of a story by Peter Overby which was broadcast onThursday’s edition  of NPR Morning Edition. Critics of Citizens United, including newly enlisted philanthropists, are organizing a long campaign of their own to reduce the political influence of big money. The “fight” is being waged by the Democracy Initiative, a consortium led by Greenpeace USA, the Communications Workers of America, the NAACP, and the Sierra Club. It’s active on voter rights, and it runs Fix the Senate Now, a campaign that has already helped to lower parliamentary roadblocks in the Senate.

The Morning Edition story’s main point is that the Democracy Initiative is out to raise $40 million in large contributions from wealthy individuals. Recognizing the irony, Nick Penniman, director of Fund for the Republic, a tax-exempt group working to recruit more philanthropists to the cause, says,“This fight has been chronically underfunded for way too many years. Unless we can increase the number of philanthropists donating to the fight for reform, we’re not going to be able to ever have the financial power that we need to create a real surge.”

The story is worth reading for the remarks by David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, which advocates for fewer limits and no new disclosure requirements, and by Wendy Weiser, head of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice in New York.

Also quoted is Professor Zephyr Teachout of Fordham University Law School, remembered by some of us as one of the speakers at the 2010 Coffee Party Convention in Louisville. Her Cornell Law Review article, “The Anti-Corruption Principle,”  argues—Citizens United notwithstanding—that resistance to the systemic corruption resulting from big-money political influence is a basic principle of the U.S. Constitution. In the NPR story, she says, “The Founding Fathers didn’t even talk about criminal bribery or criminal law as a way to protect against corruption,” Teachout says. “What [the Founding Fathers] were concerned about is all the ways in which money and power could influence people, representatives in particular, to be unfaithful to their constituents.”

About Hamilton Richards

I retired in 2006 as a Senior Lecturer in Computer Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. These days I volunteer technical support for Citizens' Climate Lobby (Austin chapter), Common Ground for Texans, (, Integrity Texas (, and several friends.
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