Find the answers to frequently asked questions about our work and our organization below. If you have a question that isn’t answered yet, send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you with an answer shortly.
- What kind of organization is Citizens Take Action?
- Why is Citizens Take Action so focused on getting big money out of politics?
- How did big money get into politics?
- Do we really need to pass a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics?
- Can’t we just wait for the Supreme Court to overturn Citizens United?
- Why can’t Congress undo Citizens United?
- How do we pass a Constitutional Amendment?
- What exactly would the Restore Democracy Amendment accomplish?
- Can we really pass a Constitutional Amendment?
- We may have passed amendments years ago. What makes you think we can pass this specific amendment?
- How long will it take to get an amendment passed?
- What can I do to help?
- What makes Citizens Take Action different from other groups pursuing an amendment?
- What can I do to help?
What kind of organization is Citizens Take Action?
Citizens Take Action is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that is committed to getting big money out of politics and inspiring greater civic engagement. You can read more about our mission here.
Why is Citizens Take Action so focused on getting big money out of politics?
We are deeply committed to getting big money out of politics because we believe that big money in politics is at the root of many other problems. When corporations, unions, and ultra-wealthy individuals have undue influence over our political process, democracy no longer works the way it is supposed to work at a very fundamental level.
Legislation often favors powerful interests at the expense of a majority of Americans. Many good candidates are deterred from running for office. Legislators spend too much time raising money. And over 70 percent of campaign contributions come from less than 0.5 percent of Americans. Because big money in politics fundamentally disrupts the relationship between constituents and elected officials, we must solve that problem to make it easier to solve other problems we care about. And we believe passing the Restore Democracy Amendment is essential to getting big money out of politics.
How did big money get into politics?
Big money got into politics due to a series of poorly reasoned Supreme Court decisions. In the 1976 decision Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court struck down limits on independent expenditures in connection with elections. That is why ultra-wealthy individuals like Michael Bloomberg or Sheldon Adelson can spend tens of millions of dollars to support or oppose candidates. In the 2010 decision Citizens United v. FEC, the Court struck down similar limits on independent expenditures by corporations and unions. These Supreme Court decisions and others have allowed big money to flow into our political system at unprecedented levels. Before Citizens United, independent expenditures were routinely less than $40 million per midterm election cycle. In the 2018 midterm elections, independent expenditures exceeded $1 billion.
Do we really need to pass a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics?
Yes we do. Make no mistake, reclaiming our democracy is a formidable challenge and it will be an ongoing battle. No constitutional amendment can get big money out of politics on its own, but we cannot get big money out of politics without a constitutional amendment.
As things stand today, due to unpopular and poorly reasoned Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United, big money has flooded our political system at unprecedented levels. Because the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of our campaign finance laws, we can’t pass new laws to change their decisions. And we can’t sit idly by and wait for the Supreme Court to change its mind because that may take years, and even if it does happen, there’s no assurance that the Court won’t change its mind again later. Passing a constitutional amendment is the only way to solve the problem.
Can’t we just wait for the Supreme Court to overturn Citizens United?
No we can’t. First, some of the major problems we face today–growing income inequality, climate change, and a public that is increasingly disenchanted with the political process–are not going to take a vacation while we wait for the Supreme Court to come to its senses. We don’t know how long that will take and we can’t afford to wait.
Second, even if the Supreme Court does come to its senses and starts issuing decisions that help maintain the integrity of our democracy we don’t know if they’ll go far enough. We simply cannot count on the Supreme Court to do everything that needs to be done.
Third, and most importantly, no Supreme Court decision is permanent! Even if the Supreme Court reverses Citizens United, Buckley v. Valeo, McCutcheon v. FEC, and every other problematic decision pertaining to campaign finance law today, there is no assurance that it won’t reverse those new decisions tomorrow. Until we pass a constitutional amendment like the Restore Democracy Amendment, our campaign finance laws will be at the mercy of the Supreme Court and we will always need to worry that one new justice or one new case can drastically impact the integrity of our democracy.
We believe our democracy is too important to leave in limbo. Passing a constitutional amendment is the most permanent way to protect the integrity of our democracy so we should take that approach rather than waiting for nine unelected justices to do our job for us.
Why can’t Congress overturn Citizens United?
Congress cannot override Supreme Court decisions since the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of our laws. However, the Founding Fathers gave us a tool to use when the Supreme Court strays too far from our core values–the constitutional amendment. We’ve used this tool before and it’s time to use it again with the Restore Democracy Amendment.
How do we pass a Constitutional Amendment?
There are two ways to pass a constitutional amendment.
Option 1: An amendment may be proposed either by a two thirds vote of both houses of Congress and ratified by either the legislatures of three fourths of the states (38 states) or by conventions in three fourths of the states (38 states), depending on which means of ratification Congress proposes.
Option 2: An amendment may be proposed via a constitutional convention convened when the legislatures of two thirds of the states (34 states) so request and ratified by either the legislatures of three fourths of the states (38 states) or by conventions in three fourths of the states (38 states), depending on which means of ratification Congress proposes.
Citizens Take Action is pursuing the first option in support of the Restore Democracy Amendment because 1) that is how every amendment in history since the Bill of Rights has been passed and 2) There is already much more support in Congress for an amendment than there is for a constitutional convention.
What exactly would the Restore Democracy Amendment accomplish?
The Restore Democracy Amendment would shift power back from the Supreme Court to Congress, state legislatures, and voters so that we can enact campaign finance reforms. The Restore Democracy Amendment reflects the belief that We The People—rather than nine unelected judges—should decide how our political campaigns are financed. Once the amendment passes we can overturn Citizens United, limit or even eliminate spending by Super PACs, create publicly financed elections, and enact other reforms as we see fit.
Can we really pass a Constitutional Amendment?
Absolutely. Throughout history Americans have mobilized time and again to pass a constitutional amendment. The 17th Amendment providing for the direct election of Senators, the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, and the 18th and 21st Amendments, first prohibiting alcohol and then repealing that prohibition were all passed largely due to underlying social movements. Nearly every generation except for ours has passed a constitutional amendment. There is no reason we cannot do the same.
We may have passed amendments years ago. What makes you think we can pass this specific amendment?
Getting big money out of politics is one of the most politically popular issues in the country. According to polling released in 2018, 66 percent of Republicans, 70 percent of Independents, and 85 percent of Democrats support a proposal like the Restore Democracy Amendment. On average, 74 percent of voters in “red” Congressional districts support an amendment. And 20 states including Montana and West Virginia have already expressed their support for an amendment. The more voters learn about the issue, the more likely they are to support it. That’s a recipe for success.
How long will it take to get an amendment passed?
That depends on us. The good news is that over 150 House Members, 47 Senators, and 20 states have already expressed their support for an amendment. If we can get more members of Congress to unite behind one strong proposal like the Restore Democracy Amendment we can build the momentum necessary to succeed. But we need your help. The more people who get involved and the harder we work, the sooner we will succeed. So please sign up to volunteer with Citizens Take Action or make a donation to our organization to help us reclaim our democracy!
What makes Citizens Take Action different from other groups pursuing an amendment?
There are many different groups pursuing a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics so we know it may be difficult to tell which group to support or if you should support more than one. But we believe Citizens Take Action is worthy of your support for a few primary reasons.
We Are Focused On Passing An Amendment
There are many organizations that say they support a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. Few are actually doing anything about it. But at Citizens Take Action, passing an amendment is one of our top priorities. Our team members routinely meet with Congressional offices to build support for an amendment. We create podcasts and videos to edcuate Americans about the need for an amendment. We are one of the only organizations that is actually on the ground, doing the work that needs to be done.
We Have A Viable Amendment Proposal
There have been a number different amendment proposals since Citizens United. All are written with the best of intentions, but in truth, many are too extreme or partisan to have a chance of success. For example, an amendment that abolishes all the constitutional rights of unions or corporations will never get the bipartisan support we need. If we are truly going to strike a major blow against big money in politics with a constitutional amendment, that amendment must be clear, powerful, and passable. The Restore Democracy Amendment was created with the help of numerous experts and scholars, and was designed to succeed.
We Are Building a Broad Coalition
Second, Citizens Take Action will attempt to find common ground and allies wherever we can. We are a nonpartisan organization and the Restore Democracy Amendment reflects that because it goes after big money in politics from both corporations and unions. We have partnered with both progressive and conservative organizations to build support for an amendment, and you can be sure that we welcome your support regardless of your political affiliation.
We Respect Your Time
Third, we promise to respect your time and your intelligence. Citizens Take Action was formed to make real, tangible changes, not primarily to sustain ourselves. What that means is that unlike other organizations, we will never have five different petitions on our website that accomplish little more than adding you to our email list. We will never send misleading fundraising emails that say things like “We Need 20 More Donations From Your District By Midnight!” We will not pursue plans if it becomes clear that they will not succeed. Simply put, we are not going to waste your time.
So if you’re serious about getting big money out of politics and reclaiming our democracy, Citizens Take Action is the organization for you.
What can I do to help?
Volunteer with Citizens Take Action. If you care about getting big money out of politics volunteering is the best way to help. Real activism happens off line–by meeting with legislators, persuading friends and family members, or organizing people within your community. If you want to help get big money out of politics then sign up to volunteer today. If you don’t feel that you have time, become one of our monthly contributors so that we can support our other volunteers. That’s how you become part of the solution.