Even right here in little old Missouri:
When did free speech get so expensive?
Before campaign ads saturated every TV channel and radio station, before the U.S. Supreme Court decided that money was speech, and corporations were people, we had the First Amendment.
"Freedom of speech" meant men and women were free to say what they felt, without fearing that their opinions would land them in jail.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has a different idea of what the First Amendment means. Its Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions say that political mega-donors can overwhelm the speech of everyone else.
Pouring more money into politics is the wrong direction for this country. The overwhelming majority of Americans disagrees with the Supreme Court, and don't feel that campaign finance limits violate free speech.
Now, people around the country are working to pass an amendment to restore the authority of the American people to rein in campaign spending.
Opponents use alarmist rhetoric, saying that the amendment would stifle free speech. But the amendment doesn't limit who can speak, or what they can say. It simply allows the public to develop common-sense limits on raising and spending money, and put a damper on the mad cycle of endless fundraising, "Super PAC" spending and candidate kowtowing to high rollers.
This isn't about Democrats versus Republicans. Often, politicians from both sides of the aisle take money from the same donors. Missouri is a perfect example.
Have you heard of Fred Palmer? Your elected officials sure have: The chief lobbyist for Peabody Energy gave $112,500 to Missouri state politicians in 2012. That's more than twice what most Missouri households earnin a year. And he spread the wealth: $70,000 to Democrats (mostly Gov. Jay Nixon), and $42,500 to Republicans.
But Palmer's not even close to being the biggest spender in Missouri politics today; that honor goes to financier Rex Sinquefield, who spent over $3.8 million in Missouri politics in 2013 — that we can trace.
Maybe you agree with Sinquefield's politics, maybe you don't. But should he have more of a vote than you do?
Of course not. And Democrats and Republicans alike overwhelmingly support a constitutional amendment to restore the First Amendment by clarifying that money isn't speech, and corporations don't have the same rights as people.
Now Congress is paying attention. The Senate is considering a constitutional amendment bill to overturn the Supreme Court's disastrous decisions. Over 40 senators have signed on as co-sponsors, but we need more.
Sen. Claire McCaskill has been silent on her support for an amendment, despite speaking out against Super PAC spending. And Sen. Roy Blunt needs to get on board, too.
It's time for Missouri's senators to sign on as co-sponsors to the constitutional amendment to overrule Citizens United and restore our ability to set common sense limits on the use of money in elections.
As long as the Supreme Court says money is speech, then the "speech" of wealthy political donors will count more than the speech of everyday people. And until we change that, government will remain out of touch and ineffective.
It's time to overrule the Supreme Court and reclaim our democracy.
Ron Fein is the legal director of Free Speech For People, a national organization supporting the constitutional amendment campaign. In Missouri, he has represented local citizens in St. Louis in defense of a ballot measure and written about the negative influence of coal interests on Missouri.