At Ben & Jerry’s, we want to get the dough out of politics. So we weren’t exactly celebrating the five-year anniversary of Citizens United last month, the most disastrous Supreme Court decision in recent memory. Neither is the state of New Hampshire, where a bipartisan group of legislators and activists are working towards an amendment to the U.S. constitution that would overturn Citizens United.
To refresh your memories, the Citizens United decision opened the floodgates to unlimited amounts of special interest money in our already dysfunctional political system. Citizens United allowed corporations and Super PACs (political action committees) to spend and raise unlimited funds to sway election results. In her dissent, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote: “the notion that we have all the democracy that money can buy strays so far from what our democracy is supposed to be.”
Since Citizens United was decided, the reality has become worse than the most dire predictions. Some shadowy and some brazen, just 195 people contributed more than 60% of the more than one billion dollars raised by Super PACs in the last election cycle. The political network steered by the Koch brothers is budgeting almost $900 million for the 2016 elections. That’s just one Super PAC! It means a very small slice of the American population has been granted a huge influence in our elections and our government. In most basic terms, corporations and individual donors can cherry-pick their favored candidates and outspend all others by orders of magnitude. Make no mistake; this is not a partisan issue. Politicians from both parties are getting in line for the feeding frenzy.
Citizens United was a big bummer, not just for the quality of our elections—get ready to be inundated with years of attack ads—but for the very fabric of our society that is shaped by our laws: the existence of our middle class, care and support for those most in need, our environment, even things like the speed and cost of your internet.
So now what? Time to get to work and find a way to stop the runaway train. What we need is a mass movement of well-informed Americans, all pushing for a constitutional amendment controlling campaign spending. Easier said than done, right? Well, 89% of Americans agree that there is too much corporate money in politics, and they're already doing something about it. Over 140 organizations and millions of activists have banded together to counteract the Supreme Court's decision.
Ben & Jerry’s just signed onto the Principles for a 21st Century Democracy, a guiding document that calls for comprehensive reform of our elections to get ‘people in’ and ‘money out.’ Our co-founder Ben Cohen has been writing about this issue extensively. Ben even helped launch The Stamp Stampede, a grass-roots movement that literally uses our own money to get the message out to the American people.
State by state, citizens and legislatures are starting from scratch. Our home state of Vermont passed a resolution to overturn Citizens United in 2012. This year, right next door to us in New Hampshire, the citizen legislature is pushing a bipartisan bill, NH HB371, that would call on New Hampshire’s Congressional Delegation to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They deserve our support!
We encourage our New Hampshire friends and neighbors to petition their legislators to support this bill, using this link:
The movement to get us back to a government by the people, for the people will take years. But it’s doable. Generations past have won major victories for democracy, and now it’s our generation’s turn. Go New Hampshire!