Protestors: Citizens United Must Be Reversed
About 18 residents represented by U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen met outside his Morristown offices Friday, called for Republican to join bi-partisan effort to change 2010 Supreme Court ruling.
Some took issue with what they called a "tow the party line" attitude by U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen. Some wanted to let the GOP politician know that, with recent redistricting, they, too, were now being represented by him. Others said it was a bi-partisan issue that needed his support.
Whatever the case, and whatever their complaint, about 18 protestors wanted it known on Friday, outside Frelinghuysen's Morristown office, that there were problems, and they needed to be fixed.
The crux of much of the group's reason for protest rested in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in 2010.
That decision, upheld by the Court on Monday, said the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions.
Citizens United, a conservative nonprofit, had been barred from advertising their "Hillary: The Movie," on Hillary Clinton, leading to the case. The Supreme Court ruling overturned a previous law barring corporations and unions from paying for political ads made independently of candidate campaigns.
Others have stated, however, that ruling two years ago has resulted in a political landscape further ruled by corporations, and their money, and not by the people.
Locally, Diane Douthat, a Wayne resident now represented by Frelinghuysen since last year's redistricting, noted that the Republican representative was "about as right as you can get," she said. "So, we're very concerned. We need to get big money out of government."
Douthat, among protestors from Montclair, Rockaway, Denville, Morris Plains, East Hanover and Randolph—all represented by Frelinghuysen—said the issue is bi-partisan.
"You don't necessarily have to be progressive," Douthat said. "This applies to all Americans."
Although the U.S. Supreme Court's Monday decision effectively upheld Citizens United for now, opposers are still optimistic a reversal can happen if enough states get on board before July 17. That is when the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to begin hearings on an amendment to overturn the Supreme Court ruling.
In New Jersey, Senate Resolution 47 has been passed through the Senate Committee and is ready for a vote. A similar resolution currently remains in committee on the Assembly side. But, time is running out, said Susannah Newman, a former college professor and one of the primary public opposers to the law. The resolution needs to be on the June 28 agenda, she said, before the senate goes on summer recess.
"This decision that came down on Montana is just one more urgent reason to get SR47 out of Trenton and onto D.C.," said Newman, of Cape May. "It has the votes to pass, it just needs a majority. There are a lot of Republicans also not happy with Citizens United. The only people happy about it are those getting their money from the big guys. There are no other issues that can be solved until the money is gone. It's the root. Until we get a handle on that, wise public policy is impossible because it's all being bought."
Locally, several protestors on Friday wondered if Frelinghuysen's opinion could be swayed, as his historically GOP-heavy territory has added more Democratic geography since last year's redistricting.
"I think he might find his constinuency has changed," said Douthat, once represented by Democrat Bill Pascrell. "Maybe he will be more open."
A call to Frelinghuysen's Washington D.C. office seeking comment was not immediately returned.
"The problem is, he's a very, very nice man. But, he follows the party line," Morris Plains resident Sharon Rothe said. "My vote isn't for sale. I don't think anyone's is. The Supreme Court severely compromised our democracy, our voting process. This needs reversal. I hope the Supreme Court understands that."
Mike Schaffer, of Caldwell, said the issue was simple. "We don't like big money in politics.
"We need enough of our representatives to reverse the decision," he said. "We have to get enough pressure. We have to make sure we are the bigger voices."