ILNews

U.S. Supreme Court decision ignited grassroots effort to amend the Constitution

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrint

In the fight over corporate influence in politics, one group is hoping the voice of the people can trump the allure of money.

Move to Amend South Central Indiana is part of a national movement pushing for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to restrict the cash flowing into elections from corporations and super PACs. Their goal is to pass an amendment that would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which turned on the spigot of corporate spending.

Bloomington resident James Allison and his wife, former Bloomington mayor Tomi Allison, founded Move to Amend South Central Indiana. They have been speaking out against undue corporate influence for years, but after Citizens United v. Federal Election Commision, 588 U.S. 310 (2010), interest in their presentations and research spiked.
 

citizenunited-15col.jpg Move to Amend South Central Indiana held a rally Jan. 18 to observe the third anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. About 50 people attended the rally, which took place at the Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Indianapolis. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

James Allison traces the rise of political spending to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 118 U.S. 394 (1886). In particular, he pointed to the headnote, written by the court reporter, which he said has been “fraudulently cited” as the basis of corporations getting the rights of individuals.

Passing an amendment can take years, but James Allison said MTA members are willing to work as long as necessary. They believe petitions with millions of signatures and resolutions passed by municipal governments will sway Congress into action.

“This is how serious we are about this,” he said. “We’re not going anywhere.”

Cleaning messy rules

The fight is arising over Citizens United, in which the court ruled political spending is protected speech and therefore the government cannot prevent corporations and unions from giving money to either support or denounce candidates seeking office. These organizations are restricted from contributing directly to a candidate’s campaign but can try to influence the public by other means.

Citizens United did not usher in the era of corporate spending in politics, it just made it easier, according to Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, associate dean for academic affairs and professor at Notre Dame Law School.

Prior to the landmark decision, the rules for political contributions were very complicated and usually required sophisticated legal help to maneuver. A violation could have led to a federal felony charge.

Citizens United made contributing much cleaner for corporations and unions by establishing clear rules of what is and is not permitted. The psychological effect of the decision was significant, Mayer said. No longer did corporations and unions have to be nervous about making a political contribution.

Outside corporations and unions, the decision had a different kind of psychological effect. Many voters fear the money that could now flow into politics will diminish the power of people in favor of faceless entities.

Shortly after the ruling was handed down in January 2010, Move to Amend was founded. The nonprofit now has more than 150 local affiliates and endorsements from several thousand additional groups, according to David Cobb, national spokesman for MTA.

As its name suggests, the mission of the organization is to amend the Constitution. On its website, MTA has posted its proposed amendment. In broad terms, the amendment states a corporation is not a person and therefore is not entitled to the constitutionally protected rights of natural persons; and money spent to influence elections is not speech subject to the freedom protected under the First Amendment.

To remedy the problems induced by Citizens United, the Constitution has to be amended, Cobb said. Any federal law limiting corporate political donations could be overturned by the courts with no chance to appeal.

The judicial branch is an unelected, unaccountable body, Cobb argues, so it is not the appropriate role of the court to create new policy. That refrain against judicial activism is likely responsible for the group’s appeal to individuals all over the political spectrum.

“We have Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians – all part of a coalition of people who don’t agree on a lot but do agree corporations do not have constitutional rights and money is not speech,” Cobb said.

Scandal likely coming

Move to Amend has a simple strategy to reach its goal: Run a grassroots campaign by getting local municipalities to pass resolutions supporting the amendment which, they believe, will pressure Congress into action. To date, more than 450 city and county governments across the country, as well as a handful of states, have adopted resolutions advocating for the amendment.

Currently, the Bloomington City Council is the only government body in Indiana to have passed such a resolution, according to the MTA website.

Move to Amend South Central Indiana is now working to raise awareness of the amendment so other Hoosier cities and towns will follow Bloomington. In conjunction with the outreach effort, the group held a rally Jan. 18 of about 50 people at the Birch Bayh Federal Building and United States Courthouse to mark the third anniversary of the Citizens United decision.

At the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, professor of law Daniel Conkle harbors serious concerns about Move to Amend’s proposed language. Among the problems he pointed to was the removal of due process rights for corporations. If, for example, the government wants to build a road that transects a company’s property, under this amendment, the government could take the land without giving any compensation.

“They’ve written an amendment that seemingly is way too broad and goes beyond concerns expressed by the Citizens United decision itself,” he said. “I think there’s no chance in the world this amendment will be ratified.”

However, Move to Amend notes the language is only a suggestion. Cobb explained a constitutional response to Citizens United is a political question that is best decided in the political process. Should any amendment offered the Congress fall short, then the public can hold the elected officials accountable.

Also working to influence Congress, but in the opposite direction, is the Club for Growth, a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)4 organization led by former Indiana 2nd Congressional District Representative Chris Chocola.

Corporations and unions may have benefited from Citizens United, but advocacy groups like Club for Growth got a boost from SpeechNow.org, et al. v. Federal Election Commission, 599 F.3d 686 (D.C. Cir. 2010). Building on Citizens United, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that contributions from independent political organizations going directly to endorse or oppose candidates for federal office cannot be limited.

This decision opened the door for the creation of super PACs and Club for Growth led the way by establishing the first one, Club for Growth Action. During the 2012 election, Club for Growth Action collected and spent about $20 million.

Through the super PAC, Club for Growth is “able to receive more money because people want to participate in democracy,” said Barney Keller, spokesman for the Club for Growth. “Super PACs allow them to pool their money and have influence.”

In fact, Club for Growth is in favor of removing all limits on political spending. Keller called campaign contributions “one of the purest forms of speech” and compared government rules restricting donations to tyranny.

The flow of money into politics is unlikely to decline unless Congress reigns in contributions or requires substantial disclosure of campaign donors. Capitol Hill did enact legislation clamping down on political contributions and spending in the 1970s after Watergate, the abuse of campaign dollars that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Although an incident would not have to be on the scale of Watergate, Mayer thinks it will take some kind of wrongdoing to spur Congress to act.

“I think that with the current make up of Congress,” Mayer said, “there’s not going to be any federal law (addressing contributions) until there is a significant scandal, and there most certainly will be.”•

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

  2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

ADVERTISEMENT