WASHINGTON -- A coalition of national and state government reform groups announced on Thursday that Arkansas is the next battleground in the fight for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision.
The groups Common Cause, Public Citizen, Free Speech for People and the Arkansas-based Regnat Populus filed a ballot initiative with the Arkansas Attorney General's office that would make Arkansas the seventeenth state to call for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution walking back the Supreme Court verdict.
The 2010 Citizens United decision allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited sums of money on elections as long as money was spent independently of candidates and political parties. A subsequent lower court decision based on the Citizens United ruling extended unlimited independent spending to individuals.
In addition to asking for a constitutional amendment, the Arkansas initiative would require corporations to abide by the state's corporate spending ban -- which was gutted by the Citizens United decision -- in order to obtain limited liability protection.
Once the attorney general certifies the initiative, the reform groups will have until July 7, 2014, to acquire 62,507 signatures to put the initiative on the ballot for the November 2014 elections.
"It is Arkansas’ turn to make a stand and to join the 16 other states already on record calling for a constitutional amendment to reclaim our democracy," a joint statement from the four reform groups said. "And, it is Arkansas’ turn to lead the way with new restrictions on corporate money in our elections."
A challenge to the 2010 Supreme Court decision by Montana sought to protect the state's long-standing corporate spending ban by arguing that Montanta's unique history with corporate political corruption should allow the state to make its own rules despite national court rulings. In 2012, the Supreme Court rejected the challenge, and the Citizens United decision was formally extended to the state level.
The public is largely opposed to the court's ruling, with one 2012 poll finding 62 percent of people were against the decision.
The sixteen states that have approved resolutions or initiatives calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Oregon, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia.
If the reform groups are successful, Arkansas would be the first southern state to send a resolution to Congress calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse the nearly four-year-old decision.