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Restoring, not restricting, freedom of speech

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This November, I exercised my right as a citizen of the United States and went to the polls to vote.

Without going to the polls, a number of corporations exercised their unwisely-granted new rights to influence the elections far beyond my one vote.

In a record-setting year for election spending, super PACs and their donors took advantage of the Citizens United ruling to pour corporate money into races all over the country.

Corporations are not people; they are a ‘legal fiction’ created to pool private resources for public use.  They should not be used as piggy banks for CEOs and other executives to influence elections.  At minimum, even after the Citizens United ruling, corporations should be required to seek the permission of their shareholders before making political donations.

The First Amendment was never intended to allow corporations to dominate the political arena. A corporation using its property to influence elections beyond the ability of an average voter should never have been equated with a citizen exercising his or her right to free speech. We have long called for an amendment to clarify this in the Constitution; corporations are not people.

For his support of this issue, lately Congressman Hank Johnson has been getting some negative attention. A recent headline stated that he wants to amend the Constitution to “Restrict Freedom of Speech.”  Our common goal is just the opposite.  By restricting the influence of concentrated wealth, we can restore individual freedom by making sure our free speech is not drowned out.  Corporations are not mentioned in the Constitution, but individuals are.

Voters around the country agree.  Georgia PIRG has released information documenting the enormous scale of campaign spending this year, but voters did not let this discourage them from making their voices heard. On Election Day, 74% of Coloradans voted in favor of a resolution against the Citizens United ruling, and in Montana 75% of voters did the same.

There are coalitions forming in municipalities around Georgia to pass resolutions against the Supreme Court’s disastrous ruling in 2010. We are proud to have Congressman Johnson’s support.

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