CONTACT Bruce Speight, WISPIRG, (608) 658-3517
On Day of Oral Argument in McCutcheon V. FEC, Wisconsinites Gather to Push Back on Big Money in Politics, Demand Statewide Referendum
Coalition Delivers Letter to Committee Chair Tyler August, Urging a Hearing on Statewide Citizens United Referendum
Madison, WI – Today, the Money Out, Voters In coalition, representing thousands of Wisconsinites and 35 community organizations, gathered at State Capitol to push back on the power of big money in elections, as the U.S. Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC. The grassroots movement of Wisconsinites is calling on the state legislature and Governor to give the people of Wisconsin a say in the future of our democracy and pass Assembly Joint Resolution 50 (AJR50), which would bring a statewide referendum to the people in November 2014, asking voters whether Wisconsin elected leaders should support a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United. Citizens United opened the floodgates to outside spending in elections.
In the case, Alabama donor Shaun McCutcheon will ask to strike down the overall limit on what an individual can give to federal candidates, parties, and PACs in a two-year election cycle. That limit currently stands at $123,200 – over twice the average household income in the U.S. In 2012, only 1,219 donors came within 10% of hitting the aggregate limit. New research from U.S. PIRG and Demos projects that if the limit is lifted, this small set of donors would raise their giving and inject an additional $1 billion in campaign contributions through the 2020 elections. Advocates say the case would further increase the electoral clout of a few large donors.
The Supreme Court has never struck down a federal contribution limit, maintaining that these limits are constitutional because they prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption. The groups argue that right now, when confidence in Congress is at an all time low, it would be extremely unwise to toss aside that precedent.
“Most Wisconsinites do not feel that our voices are being heard in the state Capitol and in Washington D.C., and who could blame us? In Citizens United the Supreme Court handed a giant megaphone to the wealthiest interests, and today it will consider turning up the volume even higher,” said Bruce Speight, WISPIRG DIrector. “The last thing we need right now is to increase the giving of the donors with the deepest pockets. Rather, we should be empowering small donors so that ordinary Americans can provide the funds needed to run campaigns.”
The Money Out Voters In coalition also delivered a letter to Committee on Government Operations and State Licensing Chair Tyler August and other committee members, urging them to hold a hearing on AJR 50, the statewide Citizens United referendum. Already, over 24,000 Wisconsinites have called on state leaders to bring a referendum to the people, and 23 communities in Wisconsin have taken up and passed resolutions urging a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. 16 states, from Montana to Colorado, have weighed in on money in politics and the Citizens United ruling. More than 70% of Democrats, Republicans and Independents agree that corporate political spending drowns out the voices of average Americans and nearly half strongly agree.
“To fully restore public trust in our democracy, we must return control of our elections to the people,” said United Wisconsin Executive Director Lisa Subeck. “We urge the Legislature to allow the people of Wisconsin the opportunity to weigh in on this critical issue and to voice their support for common-sense campaign finance reforms, starting with the reversal of Citizens United.”