Influence of money on U.S. elections will be topic of public forum in SLO

A 2010 Supreme Court decision that its critics say led to a gusher of money flowing into elections will receive a close look during a public forum March 31 in San Luis Obispo.

David Cobb, a spokesman for the national Move To Amend campaign, will talk about the influence of big money on elections and legislation in the United States, including the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling. Bill Ostrander, president of the local Move to Amend chapter, also will speak.

The court ruled that limits on independent expenditures by corporations violate their First Amendment right to free speech.

Combined with earlier decisions that called corporations people, the ruling, Move to Amend says, “allows corporations to take the rights that belong to the rest of us and use them against us.”

The decision, organizers say, “resulted in almost $1 billion of additional spending on national elections alone in 2012, collected from a handful of people and groups, that swamped the airwaves and print media in an attempt to sway public opinion. They were mostly attack ads.”

“This,” the organization continues, “is a distortion of the most fundamental aspect of our democracy and affects all Americans at every level, from family, community and businesses to the environment, the economy and foreign policy.”

Move to Amend is working toward a constitutional amendment that would require the regulation of money in elections and distinguish between individual citizens and corporations.

The forum, which is free, will be “lively,” organizers say, and will explore not only the effects of Citizens United but also examine what citizens can do about it and why it is important to act.

It begins at 5 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall, 2201 Lawton Ave.

Other groups, including Ralph Nader's Public Citizen and a movement headed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, are also working to blunt the effect of Citizens United.