Fight back to save free speech rights

Wednesday May 9, 2012

The dire predictions about the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court's right wing upon the 2012 election campaign via the Citizens United decision has been proven true and them some. Millions of dollars in corporate money have been unleashed to bury voters in negative ads, many of them inaccurate, and the worst has yet to come. This election season is beyond salvation but there is hope for the future at both the state and national level.

A bill before the Legislature calling for the Court's decision to be overturned is supported by the entire Berkshire delegation -- Democratic Representatives Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Gail Anne Cariddi, Paul Mark and "Smitty" Pignatelli and Demo cratic state Senator Ben Downing. Ideally, Massachusetts will become the fourth state to take this stand within a month. At the federal level, the People's Rights Amendment overturning the ruling has been brought forth by its sponsor, U.S. Representative James McGovern of Mas sa chusetts and is backed by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.

The illogical, biased conclusion of five justices that corporations are actually people and the refusal to put limits on corporate political spending violated the First Amendment's free speech protections effectively buried the free speech rights of average Americans beneath an avalanche of political spending. To protect the ano nymity of donors and to maintain the charade that the money is not being spent in coordination with candidates, super PACS have been created to bombard voters with ads that are, as we saw in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, negative and factually challenged.

"Corporate spending in elections is drowning out free speech, and the only way that we can combat it is to band together," said Ms. Farley-Bouvier in a visit to The Eagle. On Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Barrington Stage Company's Main Stage, the legislative delegation and several statewide public interest groups will host a presentation titled "Corpor ations are not people" to discuss how citizens can band together to push for repeal of Citizens United. It will be a long process with no guarantee of success as powerful interests will be in opposition, but our democracy is very much at stake.


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