Citizens United Rejected By Voters In Montana, Colorado

11/07/2012 05:38 pm ET | Updated Nov 07, 2012

WASHINGTON -- In Colorado and Montana voters overwhelmingly stated their disapproval of the campaign finance climate that emerged in the wake of the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling by voting for resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn of the ruling and end so-called corporate personhood.

Pushed by a coalition of reform groups, voters in both states passed resolutions with more than 70 percent approval, and with support from both sides of the aisle.

"The results are pretty unequivocal that no matter if you're a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent you're pretty mad about Citizens United," said Derek Cressman, who helped author both resolutions as vice president for state operations at the reform group Common Cause. "You know, Mitt Romney carried Montana with 55 percent of the vote, and 75 percent of the vote in Montana called for this amendment."

John Bonifaz, of the anti-corporate personhood group Free Speech Is For People, also noted the bipartisan support and called the resolutions "huge victories." "They further demonstrate that this movement has broad backing from people across the political spectrum," he said.

The Citizens United decision freed corporations and unions to spend unlimited sums of money on independent political campaigns. A subsequent ruling opened the door for individuals to pool their money into independent groups in unlimited sums and the Supreme Court's rejection of a Montana challenge to Citizens United extended the ruling to all 50 states.

The Colorado and Montana resolutions are the first statewide initiatives supported by voters calling for the overturn of the controversial court ruling. Previously, reform groups worked to get state legislatures, city councils, towns and other levels of government to pass resolutions calling for its overturn.

Overall, 11 states have passed some kind of resolution announcing support for overturning Citizens United. California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Vermont all passed resolutions through their legislatures, and majorities of legislators in Connecticut and Maryland sent letters to Congress calling for a constitutional amendment opposing the ruling.

While such measures are non-binding, Bonifaz said, "The goal here is to demonstrate that there is mobilized grassroots support for an amendment from the states that will push Congress ultimately to act."

Montana's resolution had the strong backing of the state's outgoing Democratic governor, Brian Schweitzer. In May, he told The Huffington Post, "It was Montana in 1912 that banned corporate money from our elections. We don't mind leading and we believe it has to start somewhere. This business of allowing corporations to bribe their way into government has got to stop."

Schweitzer promised to "start a prairie fire" by passing the anti-Citizens United ruling. Both Cressman and Bonifaz hope that is the case.

"We're already fielding calls from folks in other states that want to take this idea there," Cressman said Wednesday.

Bonifaz also stressed the importance of the Montana and Colorado resolutions beyond igniting the issue of Citizens United and money in politics.

"Equally important from our standpoint is the challenge to the notion of corporations being treated equally as people under the Constitution, which goes outside of the election sphere," he said. "There's a history of cases where corporations have come in, fabricated First Amendment claims to strike down public interest laws -- protecting the environment, health care, consumer rights, civil rights -- having nothing to do with money in politics."

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