Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Citizens United decision and what’s so bad about it?
In January 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in the Citizens United v. FEC case that corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money to support or oppose candidates for public office – based on the legal fiction that corporations are persons, and thus entitled to free speech rights protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This decision has opened the floodgates to big money in politics, which is now drowning out the voices of ordinary people and threatening the bedrock American value of ‘government by the people.’
Why do we need a Constitutional amendment to get big money out of our elections? Can’t Congress just pass a law?
We did pass a law, just 10 years ago, the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002 (better known as “McCain-Feingold”). The Court struck it down in Citizens United. The Court said that corporations have a Constitutional right to spend unlimited amounts of corporate dollars in elections and that the law infringed on that right. There are only two ways to overturn a ruling by the US Supreme Court. One way is to bring a case that reaches the Supreme Court again, and the Court could reverse its prior decision. The other way is to enact a Constitutional amendment, which would ensure that we the people have over-ruled the Court.
It’s pretty much impossible to amend the Constitution, isn’t it?
Americans have amended the Constitution 27 times in our history. Seven of those amendments overturned prior Supreme Court rulings. We have amended our Constitution to expand our democracy and to defend our democracy. And, the movement to reclaim democracy in America today is rapidly growing. Two states and more than 100 towns and cities across the country have already passed resolutions to overturn Citizens United and many more are on the way. This issue is so important to so many people that we think achieving an amendment is actually possible.
There’s a lot of big money in politics. Are you only concerned about CORPORATE spending?
We think EVERYONE should have to abide by reasonable limits on election spending, including limits on contributions to candidates for public office and limits on so-called “independent” election expenditures. We also support full disclosure of these payments. This is a simple matter of creating a level playing field for everyone to be able to participate in democracy. We support passage of an amendment or amendments to the U.S. Constitution that create and/or allow for this reform.
Why is Ben & Jerry’s involved in this campaign?
Ben & Jerry’s Social Mission is a commitment to use our company to benefit the common good. We believe that the current system of campaign finance in the U.S., in which a small number of donors – including some corporate interests – have outsized influence, doesn’t serve the common good. It’s not really democracy. But it’s also a serious obstacle to progress on many of the most important issues of social justice, economic fairness, and environmental restoration that we face. We aren’t going to get the changes we need unless we fix our campaign finance system. Part of Ben & Jerry’s Social Mission is speaking out on issues like this – and we’ve been doing it for over 30 years!
What is Ben & Jerry’s trying to achieve with this campaign?
Ben & Jerry’s main purpose is to support the people’s movement to make American elections, politics, and government more accountable to the people – the 99%. Serious campaign finance reform is essential to achieve that goal.