A coalition of Illinois activist groups met in front of Federal Plaza Wednesday and called on U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (D-Ill.) to eliminate big business’ involvement in politics.
The Coalition to Restore Democracy, which includes local groups Common Cause Illinois, Democracy in Action Chicago and many others, organized the afternoon rally and the calls for Kirk to join their cause.
About 50 demonstrators shouted chants like “Money out, voters in!” and called the senator’s office on their cell phones hoping to speak with him about the Democracy for All Amendment, also known as Senate Joint Resolution 19, which would aim to reduce corporate money presence in elections.
“We need something in the constitution to say it’s okay to pass campaign finance reform laws,” said Benjamin Singer, 26, campaign director for Common Cause Illinois.
Singer, who during the rally went to the senator’s office to deliver a petition with over 60,000 signatures, said Kirk has been supportive of this issue before and he hopes they will have his vote when the amendment is decided next week. He added that the petition was well received by the representatives in Kirk’s office and the senator’s vote is a very big possibility. The representatives did not say how Kirk would vote on the amendment, Singer said.
“If the American people as a whole speak up, [his vote] is inevitable,” he said.
Kirk would be the 51st senator in support of this bill, according to Sharon Sanders, 74, a speaker at the event who helped start the Coalition to Restore Democracy.
“Middle class is being destroyed by big businesses,” Sanders said. “We have to fight for equality.”
Lyla Bendsen, 75, of Common Cause Illinois, said the amount of money playing a role in the political process has increased over time and it is time for it to end.
“It’s like putting kerosene on a fire,” she said.
Although Democracy for All has received a great deal of support, certain organizations have criticized the amendment. The American Civil Liberties Union wrote to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary in June explaining its strong opposition.
“[It] would severely limit the First Amendment, lead directly to government censorship of political speech and result in a host of unintended consequences that would undermine the goals of the amendment…” the letter stated.
Singer said he does not agree with this stance, adding that this amendment will not hinder freedom of the press, but rather give every citizen a voice.
The vote on the resolution will be held in the Senate. Activist Marty Bergerud, 64, said he will continue to fight for the bill even if Kirk doesn’t vote in favor.
“The dysfunction in our government is disturbing to me,” Bergerud said. “We have so much dysfunction it’s polarizing.”
Singer said Common Cause also will continue to support the amendment if it is not voted in favor of next week, but hopes that won’t be necessary.
“We will keep pushing until we pass this,” he said. “This is just the beginning.”