Government Administration and Elections Committee
JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
RESOLUTION MEMORIALIZING CONGRESS TO PROPOSE AN AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION TO PROTECT THE FREE SPEECH RIGHTS OF PERSONS.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Government Administration and Elections Committee
Rep. John “Jack” Hennessy
REASONS FOR BILL:
The resolution memorializes Congress to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to allow for the prohibition of independent expenditures by corporations and other entities.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Denise Merrill, Secretary of the State of Connecticut:
Secretary Merrill offered her testimony in favor of this bill.
She mentioned years of history involving campaign finance reform and court cases and made a point to say “I'm sorry but corporations are NOT people”.
She stated that “This Supreme Court decision reversed decades of campaign finance laws. We in Connecticut must respond”.
Michael J. Brandi, Executive Director and General Counsel for the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC):
Mr. Brandi offered his commission's testimony in support of this bill.
He stated that “We support legislative action that would bring clarity and ensure that the people of Connecticut can have full faith in their government”.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
State Representative Jack Hennessy:
Rep. Hennessy offered his testimony in support of the bill he co-sponsored.
He stated that “For government to truly represent the people, they need to have a voice, but when their voices are being drowned out by corporate cash, government no longer serves them. We must continue the effort to limit corporate influence over the electoral process. I am in full support of a Constitutional amendment and will continue with this effort until it is achieved”.
Doug Hausladen, New Haven Alderman:
Mr. Hausladen gave his testimony in favor of this bill.
He gave an extensive history of the Citizens United court case and then said “Citizens United has broken the entire system threatening democracy, creating a new era where the government is indifferent to the will of the people, to benefit a handful of corporations, bankers and billionaires. This system enforces itself, making these individuals and entities ever more powerful”.
Abraham Scarr, Director of the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group (ConnPIRG):
Mr. Scarr offered his testimony in favor of this bill.
He stated that “There are many things we can and should do in the short term to combat the corrosive influence of special interests on elections. The General Assembly has the opportunity to take action, for example, by passing Proposed Senate Bill 5, which would increase transparency in campaign contributions. At the same time, Connecticut should join the growing list of states calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United”.
John G. Antonich:
Mr. Antonich stated that he represents a small group of citizens in the Glastonbury called the “Concerned Connecticut Citizens”.
He stated that “The “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision is only a small piece of a very large puzzle, but we need to make the statement that big money is not going to decide the fate of the 310 million people in our nation”.
Mr. Sutherland offered his testimony in favor of this bill.
Mr. Sutherland gave an extensive history and explanation of the Citizens United decision.
He then stated that “In order to return our elections and thereby our democracy back to We the People, we must overturn this terribly wrongheaded Supreme Court decision”.
Elsa Peterson Obuchowski:
Mrs. Obuchowski offered her testimony in favor of this bill.
She stated that “Citizens United and related court decisions have done terrible damage to our electoral process by making candidates dependent on huge donations from anonymous donors. As long as Citizens United is not overturned, nobody can hope to run for office who isn't either a multimillionaire or beholden to moneyed special interests”.
Paul Filson, Director of the Service Employees International Union Connecticut State Council:
Mr. Filson offered his organization's testimony in favor of this bill.
He stated that “The Supreme Court of the United States made a grave error in it 5-4 decision allowing unrestricted independent expenditures in political campaigns”.
He mentioned that “Congress and the President must change the Constitution making these “independent expenditures” illegal or at least controllable”.
Daniel Ravizza, Organizer for the Connecticut Citizen Action Group:
Mr. Ravizza offered his organization's testimony in favor of this bill.
He stated that “The impacts of the fated 2010 Supreme Court Decision have massive impacts upon our federal, state and local democratic processes”. He stated that he firmly supported the resolution and urged its passage.
Cheri Quickmire, Common Cause:
Mrs. Quickmire gave her organization's testimony in favor of this bill.
She gave an extensive history of campaign finance issues in our country especially pertaining to Citizens United.
She stated that “Repairing the constitutional damage of Citizens United is only one necessary step. Connecticut has gone a long way with legislation to require disclosure of all funds spent to influence our elections and public financing that provides candidates with a way to campaign that doesn't require them to coddle up to wealthy interests. The Citizen's Election Program strives to ensure that voters can hear about all candidates and issues, not just the ones backed by big money”.
She mentioned all of the other states that have already passed similar legislation and stated that “It would do our state proud to add Connecticut to that list”.
Mrs. Buchanan offered her testimony in favor of this bill.
She asked the question, “Did Citizens United tilt the balance too much to allow unregulated election speech verse the pernicious effect of money when it pollutes the integrity of elections?”
She mentioned that she believes it did and said “I urge the Connecticut General Assembly to begin the journey to help insure that it is the vote that determines who wins elections and not the size of one's bank account”.
Mr. Zagaja offered his testimony in favor of the bill.
He gave a history of his experience dealing with citizens while working on campaigns and their thoughts on campaign finance issues such as the Citizens United decision.
He stated that “While overturning Citizens' United will not put an end to policy advocacy by corporations, it will curb some of the excess. Hopefully it will clear up bandwidth and give people without millions of dollars an opportunity to have their voices listened to. Maybe it will allow our public servants to sleep better and live bolder”.
Mr. Hasz offered his testimony in favor of this bill.
He stated that “My main point to support this is that the intent of Citizens United decision was to enhance free speech but the actual result is that it suppresses access to speech by making it expensive for all but a few special interest groups or wealthy individuals. The chance that an individual with limited resources maintaining majority status is slim”.
He also mentioned that “Repealing Citizens United would also I believe be good for most businesses because if they were not allowed to venture into the mucky world of politics they wouldn't and the money saved could be reinvested in their businesses creating jobs rather than squandered on political campaigns that if they bring results are at the expense of some other business or us the true citizens”.
Mrs. Usher offered her testimony in favor of this bill and urged Connecticut legislators to back the proposal.
She stated that “Our so-called democracy was already on pretty shaky ground. Many citizens already felt that they had little say in what went on in our country. Citizens United makes all our individual voices so much smaller. Corporations are not people and they should not have the right to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence our elections”.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Reported by: Nolan Davis