Jessica M. Karmasek Sep. 25, 2013, 4:00pm

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- Advocates of a constitutional amendment to overturn a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2010 that allowed unrestricted campaign spending by corporations said Tuesday support for the campaign is one-third of the way there.

The nation's high court held in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited because of the First Amendment.

The court's ruling in favor of Citizens United stemmed from a dispute over whether the non-profit corporation could air a film critical of current U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Special interest groups, including the Free Speech For People, People For the American Way, Public Citizen and Common Cause, want the ruling overturned and have been pushing for an amendment to do so.

However, constitutional amendments must be approved by two-thirds of both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

After that, they must be approved by the legislatures in at least 38 states.

According to a survey by the groups, which was released this week, support for an amendment currently stands at one-third of each of those thresholds.

The number of representatives needed is 290. Currently, 98 are sponsors or co-sponsors, the survey found.

The number of senators needed is 67. Today, 27 are sponsors or co-sponsors.

As for the state legislatures, 16 have officially "called" for an amendment or have issued official resolutions or ballot measures.

"In just three years since the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, we have come one-third of the way to amending the U.S. Constitution to reclaim our democracy and to ensure that people, not corporations, shall govern in America," John Bonifaz, co-founder and executive director of Free Speech For People, said in a statement.

"Americans across the political spectrum are standing up to defend that fundamental promise of government of, by, and for the people."

Karen Hobert Flynn, senior vice president for strategy and programs at Common Cause, said voters and legislators are "justifiably outraged" at what Citizens United has created -- "a system of legalized bribery around our elections," she said.

Marge Baker, executive vice president of People For the American Way, added that this week's milestone represents "important progress."

"Amending our country's constitution should be difficult. But this isn't the first time Americans have encountered a serious problem that needs a serious solution," she said. "Citizens United and other cases that paved the way for big money to flood our elections have given us one of those moments.

"As more states and elected officials go on record in support of an amendment, the clearer it becomes that the American people will not stand to have their voices overpowered by wealthy special interests."

The 16 states that have formally called for a constitutional amendment include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia.

In addition, nearly 500 cities, towns and counties, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia have called for an amendment, and more than 2,000 elected officials nationwide support one.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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