Thank you to my colleague Congressman Deutch and also our colleagues from the Senate. I am Donna Edwards. I represent Maryland’s 4th congressional district. I was just thinking as I was looking at this room of advocates from all around the country—I began my career 20 years ago as a public citizen working on campaign finance reform.
I completely circumscribed by the Buckley V. Valeo decision that Senator Schumer spoke about. We could not have imagined a world 20 years ago where today we are faced with a horrific decision by the United States Supreme Court in Citizens United that completely upends everything that we know about the people’s role and the people’s voice in our democracy. We cannot allow it to stand.
Two years ago when the Citizens United decision was announced, Chairman Conyers and I joined together in introducing a constitutional amendment one week after the decision. I think that we are a long way from that point here, but what we see is all across the House and the Senate a number of us coming together with various different ideas about how we need to amend the Constitution to respond to an environment in which corporate money, in which individual wealth is dominating our politics. It is only this election cycle that we are able to see the millions and millions and millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars, that will be spent in this election cycle that will upend our campaign finances and upend our elections.
People are feeling increasingly at a distance from their participation in the process because the money has become so overwhelming. The question is not whether we should amend the Constitution—72% of the American people and 78% of the American people in some polls agree that we should amend the constitution to respond to this crisis. The question is whether we will have the leadership in the House of Representatives and the United States Senate to reflect the will of the American people to return elections back to the people. We can do that. We can do it by the power of the advocacy that is demonstrated right here in this room.
The fact that John Conyers and I have one constitutional amendment that some have signed on and that Ted Deutch, Bernie Sanders and others have other ideas is not a bad thing. In fact, it is a good thing because I will be pleased and proud to join in signing a declaration for democracy that all of us can sign onto with the idea that we need to debate this, get it out of the way, restore elections to the American people, return elections and the voice of the American people back into our election process.
If there is anyone out there who is wondering why it is that people aren’t participating in elections at the rates that they should be, why it is that people have a distance between themselves and their elected officials, you have no further to look than the damage that has been done by the Supreme Court in deciding Citizens United that took all of the money out of our system and put it in the hands of a handful of people who are going to determine our elections. It is time that we take it back. Thank you very much.
Speech from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WUWfGzhk4k.