RESTORING OUR DEMOCRACY
WHEREAS, two years ago, the Supreme Court seriously undermined our democracy when, continuing a trend of deregulatory campaign finance decisions, it ruled to allow unlimited independent campaign spending by corporations and other groups.
WHEREAS, the Citizens United ruling further tilted the playing field in favor of the 1 percent and against the 99 percent, whose voices are being drowned out by excessive spending and influence by corporations and the wealthy.
WHEREAS, since the Citizens United ruling came down, and particularly since the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement, there has been growing momentum in support of public policy solutions aimed at curbing excessive corporate influence and restoring greater balance in our political process. From federal and state initiatives to bring about greater transparency and disclosure of spending by corporate interests and wealthy donors, to proposals for a constitutional amendment restoring Congress' ability to regulate campaign spending, to calls for abolishing corporate "personhood," people from coast to coast have sounded the alarm about the need for reforms to rein in excessive corporate influence in our democracy.
WHEREAS, the AFT supports the overturning of the Citizens United decision and calls for immediate action to end the dominance of our political system by corporations and the 1 percent. The AFT has long advocated for measures to bring about greater fairness, openness and participation in elections—reforms that enfranchise voters and ensure that wealth does not wield disproportionate influence. We support public financing of campaigns, limitations on individual contributions to candidates and parties and public disclosure of political expenditures. We also support measures to enable citizens to vote more easily, and we oppose voter identification and similar measures that are aimed at seizing partisan advantage through disenfranchisement. And, we oppose misleadingly labeled "paycheck protection" measures that would exacerbate inequality by hampering union political activity while leaving corporate and rich individuals' political spending unimpeded.
WHEREAS, the Citizens United ruling has opened the floodgates to massive spending by corporations and even more so by wealthy donors. They are pouring money into our electoral system and threaten to drown out the voices of hard-working Americans. Commonsense restrictions on their spending are needed, along with robust disclosure of their contributions and expenditures—including their contributions to organizations engaged in electoral activity.
WHEREAS, the AFT also supports reforms aimed at restoring corporations to their proper role as commercial institutions and limiting their influence in the political sphere. Corporations are not people—they are manmade creatures of law that exist to generate economic activity and create jobs and income in communities. The notion that they should enjoy the same rights and protections as natural persons is absurd and it is destructive to our democracy. We support reforms, including changes to our tax laws and corporate laws, that address corporate dominance of our political system and that restore corporations to their proper role in our democracy.
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers condemns the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United as an attack on the very foundations of democratic government in its elevation of the power of wealth and corporations over the votes of the citizenry; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT supports the immediate passage of legislation that would overturn the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, and oppose the pernicious notions that corporations are persons, with all of the rights of actual citizens, and that the First Amendment's protection of free speech allows unlimited spending in election campaigns; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT reaffirm its support of the reform of campaign finance laws to provide for full public financing of elections and to remove the unaccountable power of wealth from the democratic elections through which the American people choose their government; and
RESOLVED, that until such times as there is full public financing of elections, the AFT supports public disclosure of campaign donors; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT opposes the attacks of the rights of American working people and their unions to fully participate in election campaigning, such as the recent Supreme Court decision in Knox v. SEIU.