Demonstrators oppose decision on campaign financing

More than a dozen people gathered in the cold outside Congressman Bill Owens office

Bill Cowan and Rita FitzGerald participated in the public demonstration opposing Citizens United outside Congressman Bill Owens office on Jan. 20.

Bill Cowan and Rita FitzGerald participated in the public demonstration opposing Citizens United outside Congressman Bill Owens office on Jan. 20. Photo by Stephen Bartlett.

— Citizens United eliminated the little guy from the political arena, said Jack Andrews.

“This is a critical assault on our Bill of Rights, and people need to wake up,” he said. “Corporations are taking over the entire political process and eliminating the voice of the public.

“We need a voice.”

He was one of more than a dozen opponents of the 2010 Supreme Court decision to grant First Amendment rights to corporate entities who publicly demonstrated outside Congressman Bill Owens’ Office, 14 Broad Street, in Plattsburgh Jan. 20.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was a landmark Supreme Court decision holding that the First Amendment prohibits government from placing limits on independent spending for political purposes by corporations and unions.

Opponents are seeking an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would state the rights are in fact intended for human beings and not legal entities such as corporations.

Representatives from the Progressive Coalition of Northern New York and local members of the Working Families Party organized Friday’s event. They are demanding that elected officials take action.

For his part, Congressman Owens believes, “we need to reduce the amount of money in politics.” He was disappointed with the Supreme Courts’ decision in the Citizens United case.

“It in effect opened the flood gates for campaign funds at all levels of government saying corporations are considered individuals,” said Bill Cowan.

It is the individual voter who counts, he said, and citizens have to be responsible.

“We have to re-energize the citizenry and get them out from in front of the television to act.”

It is simple for Rita FitzGerald.

“They are not citizens.”

She came out in the bitter cold to publicly demonstrate because she believes it is important to start the movement locally.

Jim King agreed.

“We have to do something. We have to get the money out of politics.”

Mona White called for public financing of elections.

“Then it is a citizens thing and not a corporate thing,” she said. “It is all accountable.”

Tim Palmer proposed a constitutional amendment.

“There was no intent when they wrote the Constitution to give corporations freedom of speech.”

Bertrand Ouellette believes the majority of the population should have a stronger voice in government than the minority with money. They only have interest in profit, he said, and don’t care “unless we are customers.”

Andrews proposed a simple solution.

“We need to reverse Citizens United.”

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