Political Change vs. Climate Change

Political Change vs. Climate Change

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By Paul Lauenstein

The business model of fossil fuel companies relies on tens of billions of dollars in government subsidies and the ability to use the atmosphere as a free dumping ground for their greenhouse gases. Fossil fuels could not compete with wind and solar if fossil fuel companies were required to remove and sequester as much carbon from the atmosphere as they spew into it. Why does our government allow them to get away with this? Well, members of Congress need to raise large amounts of money to pay for their reelection campaigns, and fossil fuel companies provide it to them.

In an effort to curb this legalized corruption, Congress passed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (also know as McCain-Feingold). Unfortunately, the Supreme Court effectively invalidated this law with its Citizens United v. FEC decision in 2010. Neither the President nor Congress can overturn a Supreme Court decision. Only a constitutional amendment affirming that corporations are not people and money is not speech can negate the two Supreme Court doctrines on which Citizens United is based, and open the door to meaningful campaign finance reforms that would give everyone an equal voice in public affairs.

Article V of the Constitution provides two ways to propose an amendment to the Constitution: 1) a 2/3 vote by Congress, or 2) an amendment-proposing convention called by 2/3 of the states. A bill in the Massachusetts legislature called the We the People Act (S.2243) would, if passed, call on Congress to propose a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. If Congress fails to do so within six months, the bill would then have Massachusetts join five other states (VT, CA, IL, NJ and RI) that have already called for an amendment-proposing convention on the topic of overturning Citizens United. Sharon’s state representative Lou Kafka and our state senators Walter Timilty and Paul Feeney all support this bill, and they appreciate hearing from their constituents.

As long as the voices of average citizens are trumped by deep-pocketed special interests, transforming our energy portfolio to address climate change will continue to be an uphill battle.