Dem CD1 candidates oppose Citizens United

The U.S. Capitol building (Photo by Heath Haussamen)

The U.S. Capitol building (Photo by Heath Haussamen)

Marty Chávez, Eric Griego and Michelle Lujan Grisham also talk about other reform proposals they support.

This post continues a series on the U.S. Senate and 1st Congressional District candidates’ stances on various policy issues.

All three Democratic candidates for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District seat in Congress support overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which tossed out limits on political spending by corporations and unions.

Marty Chávez, Eric Griego and Michelle Lujan Grisham all said they support efforts by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and others to overturn Citizens United with a constitutional amendment. Chávez also said re-electing President Barack Obama is important to the effort.

“I believe that one of the most effective ways in which to turn this around is to ensure the re-election of President Obama so that he will be nominating any openings that might occur on the Court,” Chávez said.

The “government’s ability to effectively represent the people is under assault” by Citizens United, Griego said.

“I don’t believe that corporations are persons deserving of constitutional rights equal to real people,” he said. “They should be subject to regulations limiting their ability to influence the political process.”


Lujan Grisham said Citizens United and lower-court rulings have proven to be a “major detriment to our electoral system – beyond what I think the Supreme Court envisioned.”

“Our democracy is at stake if we do not take immediate action to reverse that decision,” she said.

All three also talked about other reform proposals they support.

The candidates made their comments in response to questions from NMPolitics.net about the influence of money in politics and ethics reform. NMPolitics.net gave the candidates no word minimum or limit, telling them to say what they had to say. The only criterion was that they not engage in personal attacks.

Here are the questions NMPolitics.net asked on money in politics and ethics reform:

  • The influence of money in federal races is arguably becoming more and more pervasive, especially with the Citizens United decision and the new prominence of super PACs. Do you view this as a good or bad thing? Why?
  • Sen. Tom Udall and others are proposing a constitutional amendment that would restore the government’s ability to regulate campaign finance. Do you support that proposal? Why or why not?
  • What ethics and transparency legislation would you push if elected?

Their responses, published in their entirety:

Marty Chávez (Courtesy photo)

Marty Chávez (Courtesy photo)

Marty Chávez

“I have proposed an agreement to my opponents similar to what Elizabeth Warren and Senator Brown in Massachusetts have signed, in order to put our money where our mouths are in this primary, and keep third-parties and corporate money out of our election.

“After reviewing my ‘Elizabeth Warren Challenge’ to clean up our elections, both Eric Griego and Michelle Lujan Grisham refused to even have a conversation about ending the absurd influence of anonymous, unaccountable third-party money in this campaign.

“I know that New Mexican voters can tell when candidates are just giving lip service to reform. I firmly believe that we should run on our records and ideas without the interference of anonymous and unaccountable third-party expenditures. The New Mexican values that we all strive to represent in Congress call for nothing less.

“This being said, the Citizens United Supreme Court decision severely impacted the ability of individual citizens to have an equal say in our political process. I believe that one of the most effective ways in which to turn this around is to ensure the re-election of President Obama so that he will be nominating any openings that might occur on the Court.

“Very simply, money does not equal speech and I am vehemently opposed to this ruling. I support Senator Udall’s efforts, and in Congress I will do everything in my power to overturn the decision, including being a co-sponsor his legislation, the DISCLOSE Act and the Fair Elections Now Act.

“I will also push to strengthen our ethics laws by calling for legislation that requires members and senior congressional staff to wait at least five years before lobbying. The revolving door between Capitol Hill and K Street contributes greatly to corporate influence in elections. If we’re going to be serious about reigning in the out-of-control spending, we need to start by putting more teeth behind our ethics laws.”

Eric Griego (Courtesy photo)

Eric Griego (Courtesy photo)

Eric Griego

“If we truly want a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, then we need real campaign finance reform. As an Albuquerque city councilor and state senator, I have led those reform efforts. As a member of Congress, I will continue to lead that fight.

“In the State Senate, I led efforts to increase accountability, such as requiring state contractors to disclose campaign contributions before bidding for projects and pushing for an independent ethics commission. And I joined fellow reform advocates, Senator Steve Fischmann and Representative Mimi Stewart, to pass a legislative resolution calling on Congress to overturn Citizens United, making New Mexico only the second state in the nation to do so.

“On the Albuquerque City Council, I passed voluntary public financing of city elections to get money out of local elections. I also passed the city’s office of inspector general to crack down on fraud and abuse in City Hall, which was seen as necessary following a former mayor’s official reprimand by the city’s ethics board for creating an illegal political committee that took in tens of thousands of dollars from city employees and contractors to pay for personal expenses.

“Today, our government’s ability to effectively represent the people is under assault by corporations’ ability to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

“Citizens United gives unprecedented power to Big Oil, Wall Street, the health-insurance industry and other deep-pocketed corporate special interests to put pressure on elected officials to support their positions, even if they’re in direct conflict with the interest of the public. Those who don’t fall in line face an unlimited barrage of expensive ads distorting their record. And too often, these special interests win and the people lose.

“That’s why I support a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United and regulate campaign finance. I don’t believe that corporations are persons deserving of constitutional rights equal to real people. They should be subject to regulations limiting their ability to influence the political process.

“Beyond Citizens United, I believe we also need to stop the ‘revolving door’ between politicians and their staff and K Street lobbying firms representing powerful corporate special interests. If elected to Congress, I will not parlay my public service into a career as a registered lobbyist. I will also prevent my congressional staff from lobbying my office if they leave for employment elsewhere.

“Finally, I support public financing of elections to limit the influence of deep-pocketed corporate lobbyists and to promote the competitiveness of grassroots-powered candidates. Too many elected officials and candidates, including me, face no choice in the current system but to spend numerous hours each week asking people for contributions. While thankfully my campaign is sustained largely by nearly 15,000 grassroots donors giving $10, $20, $50 or whatever they can afford, most other candidates are not so fortunate. That takes precious time away from the candidates’ ability to learn, formulate and communicate public policy and ideas to solve problems and help people.

“My commitment to reform is clear, and I will continue to fight for government transparency, higher ethical standards, and to get corporate money out of politics.”

Michelle Lujan Grisham (Courtesy photo)

Michelle Lujan Grisham (Courtesy photo)

Michelle Lujan Grisham

“The Citizens United decision, along with lower-court rulings, has already proved to be a major detriment to our electoral system – beyond what I think the Supreme Court envisioned. These decisions have only served to strengthen the stranglehold of big corporate money on our politics. Our democracy is at stake if we do not take immediate action to reverse that decision. I fully support Sen. Udall’s proposed constitutional amendment, which may be the only practical solution, despite the difficult path toward ratification.

“I will support the FAIR Elections Now Act to allow for federal public financing of qualifying candidates. As a voter and a candidate, I strongly believe that our elected officials should be focusing on the pressing issues that affect our communities and families, rather than engaging in a never-ending race for campaign contributions.

“I will be totally transparent about all of my votes and issues I support and oppose. You won’t have to guess about my actions in Congress. I will listen to constituents before those votes, put my votes on a website and be held accountable for my votes.”

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9 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. So, if one person can do this, then several people can pool their money together to do the same thing.
    Yep, and if individuals want to pool their money through political advocacy groups, 501(c)(4) organizations, PACs, etc. more power to them. But ordinary corporations are special associations created, and given special right, for special purposes. Whether we want to include political speech in those special purposes or not, people will still have the right to pool their money for political purposes.
    Nobody denies that a single person can spend everything he wants on free speech.
    Actually, I’m very uncomfortable with that notion. I’m afraid that the very rich speak far more loudly than average people, and that the speech of the average people has been drowned out. I think this has harmed our democracy. If I could figure out a good way to prevent it, I’d support it. I think that public financing of elections is a good start, but perhaps not enough.

  2. pete, wow, I bet that memorial vote and speech made the legislators in DC quake in their boots and rush immediately to draft legislation and pass the law to rid America of this ruling.  When was it passed, maybe I missed it?

  3. FreddyV, your argument might hold water if the owners of ALL the cooperation’s owners came together and agreed to spend the money on political speech. Right now only a small group of executives make the decision about money that belongs to all owners. Stockholders own the company, but they are not part of the decision to spend money for a campaign. 

    Also, how can you defend campaign contributions as free speech when they are given to gain access to increase profits. These contributions have nothing to do with political speech. They are considered government relations expenditures, but the decision to expend the expenditure is based on the Return On Investment of the expenditure. Analyzing an expenditure based on ROI is no about speech. It is about profit. It is a business expense. 

    For profit speech is why DC and Santa Fe are broken. Member of congress cannot afford to live in DC because the money spent for lobbyists. Business do not spend millions of dollars because they have a burning desire to participate in the public discourse. They spend the money for tax breaks, contracts, and anything else that will increase the bottom line.

    Private prisons spend millions of dollars a year to increase prison sentence for crimes,  three strikes and your out laws, fighting the legalization of marijuana, and other pro private prison laws to increase profits.  

  4. It’s great to see that Dem. CD-1 candidates want to get rid of Citizens United and take corporate money out of our electoral system. But who actually lobbied, voted, and succeeded to call on Congress for a constitutional change? That would be Sen. Eric Griego. http:// urlin.it/2b8d3

  5. IcarusPhoenix, not superior to, but the same as.

    People have the right to free speech, and that means the right to spend their own money to say what they want to say about an issue, through television or radio spots, in videos, in flyers, or whatever.  They can spend however much they want.

    So, if one person can do this, then several people can pool their money together to do the same thing.  Corporations, unions, political action committees, etc. are all groups of people (key word here) joined together, and they have a right to spend their money how they see fit.  And it is never the government’s job to limit or proscribe or deny this right.

    Nobody denies that a single person can spend everything he wants on free speech.  So if Bill Gates wanted to, he could paper America three inches deep in flyers advocating mandatory PC’s for all.  But if I wanted to do something similar, I couldn’t, because I don’t have the same financial resources as Gates.  So, I then join together with other like-minded people, putting our limited resources together to make a bigger impact, to advocate for my cause.  How can any reasonable person say that the government has any business preventing me from doing that?

    Corporations (as well as unions and political action committees, among others) are just that: a group of like-minded people who use their combined resources to advocate for their particular cause, which is their right to do.

    As I said, it’s as if some people have never read the First Amendment. 

  6. Ah yes, free speech in New Mexico politics – that gets tricky.

  7. It’s like they’ve never read the First Amendment.
    Yes, because as we all know, the first amendment reads as follows: “Congress shall make no law preventing specific variations of Protestantism the right to infringe upon the religious liberties of all others; or abridging the freedom of corporations to spend as much money as they wish and calling it ‘speech’, or of Fox News to make things up; or of the right of corporations to write laws or demand superior access to the government than is granted to individual citizens.”
    Honestly, Freddy, without your enlightened point-of-view, it would have never occurred to me to look at my Constitution and realize that money from corporations was a form of speech superior to words from individuals.

  8. It’s like they’ve never read the First Amendment.

  9. Heath told them:  ”The only criterion was that they not engage in personal attacks.”   I guess you meant on each other?  If so, no need to add that, this docile group of party lapdogs would not do that, they have been warned and thus would never say anything negative about their opponents, but during the primary they will freely attack Republicans who they aren’t even running against yet.  I also find their responses very interesting around Citizens United. Griego of course is the most outspoken, and cleaving to the left wing line that it is all about corporate money, ignoring the fact it also allows his union PACs and left wing big money supporters free spending.  It always makes me wonder if he and his ilk are just stupid and don’t know that, or if they hope they can reinstate or somehow avoid unions and the like on the left side being impacted by getting rid of Citizens but only for corporations and right wing groups.  I suspect the latter, as fantasy is part and parcel of the liberal mind.

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