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Student tackles Citizens United v. FEC decision


Story by Tim Webber

The controversial Citizens United v. FEC decision several years ago sparked heated debate across the country.

Now, one Drake Univeristy student is attempting to bring the issue back into the forefront of fellow students’ minds.

Junior Hannah Grafelman has authored a petition encouraging the Student Senate to support overturning the 2010 decision.

“I took a class last semester that opened my eyes to how much big money has infiltrated our political system,” Grafelman said. “With the help of PIRG (Public Interest Research Group), we have started this petition to show Congress that we won’t stay silent while big corporations play games with our government.”

Corporations and their rights are at the core of the Citizens United decision.

In that decision, the Supreme Court narrowly ruled that the government could not limit the amount of money that corporations or similar entities could spend for political purposes.

Those groups have the freedom to spend unlimited sums in support or opposition of political candidates or officials.

This has led some to caution that corporate lobbyists may have gained too much power in the political realm.

“If there is any issue that you really care about in government, big money probably has its fingers in there somewhere,” Grafelman said.

“If you want our government to take a stronger position on environmental protection, one of the biggest obstacles is the role of oil and gas money,” Grafelman continued. “If you have student loans that you’d like the government to further subsidize, it’s the banks that make money on your loans that you will see influencing decisions in Congress.

“It’s not an issue that pops to the front of everyone’s minds, but it’s an issue that is constantly lurking behind many of our problems within our government.”

Alex Shaner cautioned that regardless of the number of signatures on the petition, the Student Senate may not be able to spark any change with regard to the decision.

“The difficult part is that we just don’t know if Student Senate can do that,” Shaner said. “We speak for Drake students, but at the same time, we’re only in charge of particular duties.”

Shaner also suggested that the petition may face a stumbling block in the form of its controversial nature.

“While you may support it politically, or in your own individual opinion, I think that it’s dangerous for a group like this,” Shaner said. “We’re supposed to be representing the entire (student) body, and sometimes, when it’s 50 percent for and 50 percent against, it sets a bad precedent if we as a Senate start making decisions like that.”

The Senate may not end up having to make a decision either way.

The petition still requires a substantial number of signatures on change.org, the website it is hosted on, before any action will be taken.

The lack of signatures does not prevent Senate from discussing the issue, but at the same time makes it far less likely the resolution will ever reach the Senate floor for debate.

The petition can be found by searching change.org, an online petition database, where it has been open since Feb. 20.

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