SANTA FE — New Mexico Public Interest Research Group (NMPIRG) joined by Common Cause and Environment New Mexico, gathered at the Roundhouse 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,” Sean Foran of NMPIRG said. “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.”
“After Citizens United, corporations and the wealthy have been buying elections in New Mexico and across the country,” Environment New Mexico Director Sanders Moore said. “The oil and gas industry has a stranglehold on our state, contributing more than $600,000 in the Congressional race last year alone. It is time to bring democracy back to the people.”
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.
“In our last race for governor, 90 percent of all individual contributions came from donors giving over $200, with 74 percent coming in chunks of over $1,000. The time act is now, both locally and nationally,” Sean Foran said. “We commend our U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham cosponsoring the Government By the People Act and urge Representative Steve Pearce to do the same.”
As the legislative session begins here in New Mexico, bills to curb the influence of money in politics will be considered.
Bills such as Sen. Peter Wirth’s SB58 would make changes to New Mexico’s public-financing and spending-disclosure regulations. Additional bills will work to make political contributions from all sources more transparent.
“While the Citizens United decision opened the floodgates on political spending, the ruling also said that we should have disclosure and know where the money is coming from – and our new poll with Research and Polling shows the public agrees – 92 percent of New Mexican voters support making all large political contributions from individuals, corporations, PACs, nonprofits and unions be made public,” said Common Cause New Mexico Executive Director Viki Harrison.
NMPIRG, the New Mexico Public Interest Research Group, is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.
Common Cause is the original citizens’ lobby, founded in 1970 by John Gardner, and still battling for open, honest and accountable government in Washington, D.C. and in all 50 states.
Environment New Mexico is a statewide, citizen based advocacy organization working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.