Over the weekend, the New Mexico Senate joined the House in passing a resolution opposing Citizens United and calling for the U.S. Congress to send the states a constitutional amendment to overturn it. I'm proud to have co-sponsored the Senate solution (SM3) and cast the vote to allow our state to begin re-establishing our right to regulate elections. I strongly urge citizens across the country to keep pushing their states to do the same.
The Citizens United decision was more than just a blow to democracy. It was a blow to states' rights. Now states are scrambling to overturn the ruling and put their own campaign finance laws back in place.
In his dissent, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens derided the ruling for not only striking down a large portion of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act, but also because "it compounds the offense by implicitly striking down a great many state laws as well."
Cities and states across the country have been moving toward implementing so-called "clean elections" by allowing candidates the option of accepting public financing in lieu of private contributions. Albuquerque adopted public financing for city offices, and we were working to have the rest of the state follow suit when this ruling was passed down.
What the nation's highest court has effectively done is allowed our elections to be commercialized. Just as corporate America deluges us daily with messages about what products to buy and which services to hire, this decision will allow the corporate marketing of candidates. Instead of: "This product will make you sexier / happier / more wealthy," it will be: "This candidate is (or is not) sexier / smarter / more likable."
This shilling of candidates will not only make our political landscape more and more acrimonious, it will also make it impossible to elect candidates who represent the people. Just think of our best presidents -- Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.... Do you think that they could win a present-day election given the commercialization of our modern culture -- including our elections?
Political campaigns should be about issues. For those like me, elections should also be about promises kept or broken. Candidates should not win or lose because of money, or who looks best on TV and has the snappiest sound bites. Candidates should be about ideals, integrity, and fidelity to the common good.
Likewise, governing should not be about personal power. Governing, as it was envisioned by our founding fathers, should be about empowering the people. That is done by investing each individual, rich or poor, with an equal voice: their vote. The death knell for democracy will sound the day we allow money to become more powerful than the vote. The current outpouring of support for working families and the 99% shows that it hasn't happened yet.
Democracy requires vigilance, but we have proven that New Mexicans are up to the task. If there was ever time for a constitutional convention called by the states, it is now.
We must do more than fight for our right to decide who represents us in Washington. We must fight for the right to make our decisions without the cacophony of those who would influence our votes to further their own ends.
Join my campaign and together we will fight to overturn Citizens United: www.griegoforcongress.com.
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