On the 2nd anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission, human people gathered on the West Steps of the Colorado Capitol to protest the decision they say granted human-like rights to corporations.
The Citizens United decision gave corporations the right to spend unlimited sums of money to influence American elections, as long as they don’t coordinate their efforts with candidates.
CleanSlateNow.org, a new organization founded by former Colorado Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon, cosponsored the Rally For Democracy along with Move to Amend, Colorado Common Cause, members of Occupy Denver and the Raging Grannies.
“The West Steps of the Capitol is the traditional place to protest what goes on inside the building,” Gordon told the Colorado Independent before the event. “We’re here to protest the undue influence of corporate cash in politics. If corporations have more influence, that comes at a cost. It means that individuals have less influence.
“Theoretically, money should have no influence,” Gordon said. He said many legislators feel they have no choice but to take corporate money and PAC money. Once they take the money and win election, he said they feel they have no choice but to legislate in ways that please their donors.
He said the country has a lot of economic inequality but that there needs to be a barrier between money and politics, or the same people who have the most money will have the most political influence.
“These people (gesturing at the Capitol) should represent us. They should not have a conflict between donors and the people they represent. Legislators will do whatever they feel they need to do to get elected,” Gordon said, adding that if taking corporate money becomes politically undesirable, then politicians will stop taking it.
“The people who work in this building work for you. They will do what you want if they know what that is. Democracy doesn’t just happen. It isn’t free,” Gordon said, exhorting the crowd of around 200 people to go into the Capitol and talk to legislators and let them know they disapprove of the Citizens United ruling and support a Constitutional Amendment that makes it clear that corporations are not people and do not have the same rights as people.
Gordon was joined by three legislators: Rep. Lois Court, D-Denver; Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver; and Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora.
Court stumped for a bill she and McCann have introduced that would limit how much money people can contribute to school board candidates in Colorado. She said currently in Colorado, most other offices have campaign contribution limits but that there are no limits on how much someone can contribute to candidates for school boards. In the last round of elections, she said some school board candidates received contributions of up to $25,000 from a single person.
“You are the reason things will change,” she told the crowd.
Carroll said the Citizens United decision had had a “devastating effect” on democracy in America. “We need to put to rest the absurd notion that corporations are people, which they are not.”
“The Supreme Court in Citizens United said that there is no difference between the free speech of a real human being expressing what is in their heart and soul, and an attempt by a corporation to buy influence in Congress to increase their profits,” said Gordon. “These two activities are not deserving of the same protection.”
After the Capitol rally, participants marched down the 16th Street Mall to a second rally at the Federal Courthouse at 18th and Stout at 12:45 PM.