Monday, November 5, 2012

Democracy Amendment Massachusetts (Common Cause Ballot Initiative to overturn Citizens United)

A regular reader sent along this additional information on Ballot Question 4

The Democracy Amendment Ballot Question

Shall the state [senator or representative] from this district be instructed to vote in favor of a resolution calling upon Congress to propose an amendment to the US Constitution affirming that 1) corporations are not entitled to the constitutional rights of human beings, and 2) both Congress and the states may place limits on political contributions and political spending?

Frequently Asked Questions

Who supports a constitutional amendment?

83% of Democrats, 73% of Republicans, and 81% of Independents oppose Citizens United.

9 states – Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Hawaii, Maryland, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont – have called for Congress to propose a constitutional amendment.

Over 300 US municipalities have passed resolutions in favor of an amendment, including at least 70 in Massachusetts.

11 state attorneys general, led by Massachusetts's Martha Coakley, have written to Congress urging the passage of an amendment.

22 state attorneys general urged the Court to uphold a Montana law challenging Citizens United.

A dozen versions of an amendment have been introduced by US representatives and senators.

115+ citizens' organizations support a constitutional amendment.

More than 2 million people have signed petitions in support of an amendment.

Is a constitutional amendment really necessary?

Yes. Because Citizens United and other decisions are based on the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution, only a constitutional amendment can undo them and ensure that government works for us—not just for corporations and wealthy interests that pay for political campaigns. Read more »

Isn't a corporation an association of people? Why shouldn't it have constitutional rights?

To claim that the Bill of Rights applies to "we the corporations" as well as "we the people" is contrary to its original intent and just plain wrong. Read more »

Unions, nonprofits, and news organizations are corporations too. Won't a constitutional amendment weaken their voice?

Absolutely not. Non-profit organizations could advocate for the rights of their members long before the courts gave corporations constitutional rights. The Supreme Court has recognized this repeatedly. If a constitutional amendment were passed, we would merely go back to this method of analyzing rights. Read more »

Didn't the Massachusetts state legislature already pass a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment?

Yes, in an overwhelming bipartisan victory, both chambers of the Massachusetts legislature passed resolutions calling on Congress for a constitutional amendment. This ballot question is an opportunity for the voters of Massachusetts to reinforce the state legislature's action. Read more »

What is the point if the ballot question is non-binding?

Using ballot questions, "We the People" can send a strong message to Congress and other elected officials that we want a constitutional amendment. Even though voter instructions are not legally binding, they have historically carried great force. Read more »

What is the process to pass a constitutional amendment?

All 27 amendments to today's US constitution were proposed by a 2/3 vote of both houses of Congress and then ratified by 3/4 of the state legislatures. Alternatively, amendments can be proposed and ratified by a combination of national and state constitutional conventions.

What did the Court decide in the Citizens United ruling? How did the Court arrive at Citizens United?

In its 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (2010), the Supreme Court decided that corporate expenditures in elections constitute constitutionally protected free speech. Read more »

What are independent expenditures? How are they different from contributions?

An independent expenditure is spending on behalf of a candidate. A contribution is given directly to a candidate or a candidate's affiliates. Read more »

What are SuperPACs?

SuperPACs are political action committees that only make independent expenditures. They can legally accept and spend unlimited donations from individuals, corporations, and unions. Read more »

How has Citizens United affected political spending in elections?

The unprecedented special interest funds pumped into the 2010 elections revealed only the tip of the iceberg of campaign finance post-Citizens United. The 2012 election cycle is sure to break all spending records: overall spending in the 2012 election is predicted to reach new heights – more than $8 billion! Read more »

Who will be voting on the Democracy Amendment question?

About one-third of Massachusetts voters have a chance to vote on the question in November. Read more »

Why does the Democracy Amendment question have different numbers depending on where you vote?

Ballot questions are numbered in the order in which petition signatures were submitted to the Secretary of State. Also, all statewide binding questions, of which there are three in 2012, are numbered first. Read more »

Aside from voting "YES," how can I help and where can I get more information?

Tell your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers about the ballot question. Make sure they are registered to vote by Wednesday October 17 and vote "YES" on Tuesday November 6! Read more »

Want to know more? Check out our suggestions for reading and other resources »


  1. When did this get on the Ballot? This is the same anti-free speech thing that Roy was pushing a Town Council to take up. How does this get on the Ballot as a local initiative question without TC involvement? Or did I miss something? Also looks like only part of Franklin will see the question.

  2. Not sure, it came up on the Sec of Commonwealth sample ballot page so I assumed it was state wide