Five Years After Citizens United, Groups Gather to Rally Against Big Money in Elections and Call for Solutions

Illinois PIRG

Illinois PIRG, joined today by Cook County Commissioner for District 7 Chuy Garcia, Sheliah Garland of National Nurses United, JC Kibbey a Public Policy Researcher for SEIU and Illinois Sierra Club Board Member, Carson Starkey the Field Director for Illinois Fair Trade Coalition, Ernie Lukasik of Northwest Side Housing Center, Frank Esposito of Illinois Move to Amend, Elliot Richardson member of the Small Business Advocacy Council, Lyle Hyde of Public Citizen and dozens of local residents gathered at the Kluczynski Federal Plaza to mark the fifth anniversary of Citizens United, the infamous decision that birthed Super PACs and opened the floodgates for special interest money in our elections.  The groups called out the flood of big money in elections and put forward solutions to amplify the voice of average Americans. 

“Five years ago today, the Supreme Court went way off track, and gave mega-donors and corporate interests free rein to drown out the voices of the majority,” said Maggie Galka, Campaign Organizer with Illinois PIRG. “But we’re here today because the decision also sparked a movement of Americans working to take back our democracy, city-by-city and state-by-state.”

“As Cook County Commissioner — and throughout my career as a legislator and an activist — I’ve fought for progressive policies that put the needs of ordinary people first. That job got vastly more challenging five years ago with the Citizens United ruling, which opened the floodgates of money from large special interests and corporations who use their financial power to leverage for policy and laws that often have terrible consequences for the rest of us,” said Chuy Garcia, Cook County Commissioner for the 7th District.

“It has been five years since the Supreme Court attacked our democracy by crafting the ridiculous myth that corporations are people with the right to flood our elections with unlimited money, yet as people all over the country are demonstrating today, we’re not even close to giving up. from pushing for public financing systems to continuing to lobby Congress to overturn Citizens United, Americans are taking to the streets to support the cause of freedom,” added Rey Lopez-Calderon, Executive Director of Common Cause Illinois.

Since 2010, 16 states and over 600 localities have gone on record calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and allow Congress to place common sense limits on campaign cash. In a Senate floor vote in September, a majority of Senators voted yes on this amendment.

Limits are needed to dam the flood of big money, but the groups also called for a range of more immediate solutions available without an amendment.

The just-reintroduced federal Government By the People Act would encourage more Americans to participate in the process by providing a tax credit for small donations, and would then match those small contributions with limited public funds, allowing grassroots candidates relying on small donors to compete with big money candidates.

“The momentum for change here in Illinois is clear,” said Maggie Galka of Illinois PIRG. “We are encouraging Chicagoans to support the small donor empowerment ballot question in February and call on local, state and federal elected officials across the state to take action to get big money out of politics.”