Editor's note: Rep. Tim Toomey, who represents much of Somerville, writes in support of a constitutional amendment that would prevent corporations from making political contributions. .
In the recent "Citizens United" ruling, the U.S Supreme Court gave corporations and unions the same political speech rights as individuals under the First Amendment. The Court ruled that there was no basis for prohibiting corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make election-related independent expenditures.
Citizens United has unleashed an unprecedented amount of corporate money into our political process, presenting a serious and direct threat to the nature of our democracy. The ruling provides corporations with the tools necessary to invalidate very important and democratically-enacted reforms. For instance, the Court ruled that the independent expenditures do not give rise to corruption of elected officials or the appearance of corruption. In other words, the Supreme Court reasoned that corporations’ access to or influence over elected officials does not give rise to corruption, which in turn, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.
On February 2, 2012, I submitted testimony to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in support of Senate Bill 772, a resolution introduced by Senator Jamie Eldridge. The resolution states that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution was designed to protect the speech rights of people and not corporations, and that the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United V. FEC will damage to the First Amendment and our democracy. The resolution also calls upon the United States Congress to use the amendment process, which has previously been used to correct the wrong decisions of the United States Supreme Court, to restore the First Amendment. Although the state legislature cannot reverse a decision of the U.S Supreme Court on its own, the Commonwealth must clearly state its opposition to the ruling
I believe that most Americans would agree that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution was designed to protect the free speech rights of people and not corporations. The resources and financial power that a corporation has access to are far greater than what is available to the ordinary individual. Furthermore, individuals within a corporation have more protection from criminal liability for the actions of the corporation than an individual would if he or she were acting alone. Corporations are not treated as people in other aspects of the law, and should not be allowed this much say in the electoral process as it diminishes the voice of individuals in our democracy and the trust that people have in our democratic process.
In this election year we are vividly seeing the poison fruit of Citizens United and the so-called Super PACs that it has spawned. American citizens should not be expected to stand against corporations and the unlimited amount of capital they are capable of spending in our electoral process. With that in mind, I will continue to support all who are working towards reversing the Supreme Court’s ruling in order to restore fair elections to the people and I encourage anyone who feels similarly to do the same.
-- Rep. Tim Toomey