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Big Money Mobilizes Against Amendment Movement

With growing momentum behind the call for a constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United, big money and those who benefit from the current system of campaign finance are pulling out all the stops to try and slow down the process of reform. As evidenced by the recent vote on the Democracy for All Amendment, a majority of the Senate is committed to passing a constitutional amendment. Additionally, 16 states and 550 municipalities have passed resolutions and nearly three and a half million people have signed a petition in support of an amendment.

In response, some of the nation’s wealthiest and most powerful elite, like the notorious billionaires Charles and David Koch, are mobilizing their extensive networks of writers, think tanks, and political organizations to spread misinformation and attempt to sabotage organizing efforts that support an amendment. As noted in a recent report by the Center for Media and Democracy, across the country, opinion pieces are making their way into newspapers with the message that activists calling for a constitutional amendment are trying to “radically shrink First Amendment protection of political speech.” Some authors of these articles, such as conservative columnist George Will, have been wined and dined at exclusive events organized by groups like the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity.

Rob Roper, President of the Ethan Allen Institute, claims that setting limits on campaign expenditures is tantamount to repealing the First Amendment entirely, and is laying  the "the foundation for a police state." The Ethan Allen Institute is a member of the State Policy Network, a web of right-wing think tanks in all 50 states, which receives funding from the Koch network and is a major driver of the corporate policy agenda facilitated by groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). 

Peter Roff, U.S. News contributing editor and Frontiers of Freedom Senior Fellow, writes that amendment proponents are “so desperate to rig the system that they are willing to eviscerate the U.S. Constitution.” In reality, the opposite is true. The current system of campaign finance is rigged to benefit the tiniest fraction of wealthy Americans who want to protect the status quo, with fewer than 200 of the country’s 310 million residents contributing 80 percent of all super PAC donations in the 2012 presidential election. Roff goes on to accuse progressives of actually being “regressives” and proclaiming that “if they had the capacity to feel it, they would be ashamed.” As the Center for Media and Democracy points out, “Frontiers of Freedom has received $175,000 from the Charles G. Koch Foundation between 2004 and 2007.”

It’s no surprise that big money groups like the Koch network are trying to crush the growing call to amend the Constitution. The level of influence that the Koch brothers have bought, with their network raising $400 million in the 2012 election cycle alone, would be curtailed with reasonable limits in political spending. While the backlash from big money is certainly having an impact the midterm elections, it’s also a sign that the money in politics movement is making progress. In the words of Gandhi, “first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” The fight may just be getting started, but if history is any indicator, the people will prevail.