By C.B. Pearson and Martha Stone
When our country is in trouble, Americans always stand up. History bears that out and today it is painfully clear our democracy is in crisis. As Montanans, we fully understand this crisis, and we have been setting the stage for national repair. More than any other state, we have historically experienced the unbridled power of money in our politics; and we have worked hard to make sure our elections are fair and free of the undue influence of big money.
Since 1787, our national Constitution has promised one person, one vote, and this is supposed to mean that citizens have an equal say in electing our officeholders, and that all of our votes are of equal value. But today, money gives greater weight to the votes of people and businesses who have plenty of it.
To continue to fight for this sacred value of equal say, our friends from Montana to Massachusetts and 36 other states will join Republicans, Democrats and folks of all political persuasions from across the country at the National Citizens Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. We will join 300 citizen leaders from 38 states to convene at the first-ever gathering of Americans of every political viewpoint to deliberate on the 28th Amendment to the Constitution to secure democracy for the people. One of our goals is to restore the promise of our Constitution and to hold our elected leaders accountable to the people.
Americans are way ahead of the candidates and most politicians on this. Wherever we are on the tipping point scale, Americans of all beliefs, political thought and interests are coming together across the country to restore democracy of, by and for the people with the 28th Amendment. So far, 702 cities and towns, 17 states with two more on the ballot this November, millions of citizen signatures, hundreds of supporters in Congress have engaged in this battle for the soul of our democracy.
We citizens expect our elected representatives to be honest about the choice we will be making if we fail to act: moving into a plutocracy and killing effective democracy with money and crony capitalism. The court broke our constitutional foundation in Citizens United v. FEC, and a 28th Amendment is needed now.
Less than 1 percent of Americans contribute 80 percent of the campaign funds. And more than 80 percent of Americans have had enough. In this election cycle, we have begun to hear more about Citizens United. Adding insult to the injury of that 2010 injury, the court eliminated the Montana Corrupt Practices Act in 2012, thereby removing the accountability we Montanans established in our politics. Federal court decisions have stripped the states of traditional powers to regulate corporations; expanded the power of the wealthy to control politicians and policy; and limited the ability of Americans to participate, serve and be represented equally in our government.
Our founders foresaw that the American experiment would face crises from time to time. Through Article V, they created the mechanism that gives the citizens the final word in self-government.
In 2012, 75 percent of voters approved Initiative 166, leading Montana’s congressional delegation toward a 28th Amendment to overturn Citizens United. The initiative received majority support in all 56 counties. Voters agreed that this amendment should ensure that courts not give corporations the inherent rights of human beings under the Constitution, and secure a level playing field so all individuals - regardless of wealth - may be represented fairly.
We encourage all Montanans to take up this fight and to ask candidates, office holders and others if they will be accountability to the people on the role of big money and corporate power.
C.B. Pearson is a longtime campaign finance advocate, Common Cause Montana leader and spokesperson for Stand with Montanans, sponsor of Initiative 166. Martha Stone is a communications strategist and American Promise Citizen in Massachusetts.