During the close of the recent legislative session in Springfield, there was a beacon of light on the last day. Thanks to the efforts of a lot of good people, the Illinois General Assembly passed Senate Joint Resolution 27. It made Illinois the 14th state to go on the record asking our U.S. Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. The 2010 Citizens United decision has resulted in SuperPACs, billionaires, and 501(c)(4)s pouring billions of dollars into political campaigns. The CU decision dramatically tilted the political playing field.
The passage of SJR 27 was an example of committed people working collaboratively for an objective, with the support of some good politicians. Yes, they do exist — on both sides of the aisle! (Our cause is non-partisan.) State Sen. Don Harmon was very helpful in steering it through the Illinois Senate. Many supportive politicians are committed to a fairer, more representative government than we are
What does this mean? Well, how do you feel about the gridlock and dysfunction we are experiencing in our government? Are your interests being addressed? In my judgment, our government is being strangled by the unquenchable desire for campaign $$$! Due to the 2010 Citizens United decision, campaign finance limits were almost eliminated. Now powerful corporations and the SuperRich can only be countered by millions of involved citizens. Countering all this $$$ is almost impossible in House elections or elections at the state or local levels. SJR 27 strongly supports a major effort for serious campaign finance reform that will give government at all levels the opportunity to function for the benefit of "We the People," and not just for the extremely wealthy and very powerful interests!
Twelve states have passed resolutions of support for this movement, and Colorado and Montana passed state-wide referenda. Several hundred cities, towns, and other government units have also passed similar resolutions or referenda in support of overturning Citizens United. Oak Park passed a strong referendum with 85+ percent support. New York, L.A., Atlanta, Portland, and Chicago along with many others, have all passed resolutions. This is a large and rapidly growing national movement involving many organizations.
So what has all of this growth and effort of our movement gotten us in coverage from the media? Zilch! When Chicago passed a strong resolution by unanimous consent earlier this year, most of our own members had no idea it had happened. Why? The announcement appeared in media snippets of maybe two sentences in a few small publications or for a few seconds on a couple of small radio stations. Our primary source of media has been our own social media, e-mail, and letters to the editor. Larger media sources have ignored this movement.
One can only speculate as to the reason for this news blackout of what is a fairly large, growing national movement. My guess is two-fold:
- Campaign advertising stimulated by the Citizens United decision has been a financial windfall for the large media sources.
- Most larger media resources are owned by large corporate conglomerates, and they do not want to see their power and influence diminished. The outcome has been that our movement is toiling in obscurity.
Educating the public about our concerns is difficult. The issues are nuanced and complex. The apparent news blackout continues, but we are not going away. The coalition that worked for passage of SJR 27 included Move To Amend, Move On, Common Cause, Public Citizen, Illinois PIRG, and others. We are committed to this cause because until campaign finance issues are effectively resolved, every other political issue is over-powered by the influence of money. We feel our country and its freedoms are for all of "We the People," not just the select few.
Oak Park resident Terry Grace is coordinator of Near West Suburban Move To Amend.
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