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Rallies Protest Big Money, Voter Restrictions

A broad coalition of civil rights and progressive groups kicked off a “Money Out/Voters In” campaign Thursday that features nationwide rallies to coincide with the presidential inauguration, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the third anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling.

“Maybe it’s time for us to use the tactics that Dr. King taught us to take back government,” Common Cause President and CEO Bob Edgar said on a media conference call Thursday. The call also included representatives from Public Citizen; the NAACP; U.S. PIRG; Demos and the Center for Media and Democracy.

More than 100 demonstrations around the country are planned for this weekend to call for full campaign finance disclosure, a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United ruling and an end to what organizers call restrictive ballot access laws, such as voter identification requirements.

“Voter suppression is the flip side of buying elections,” NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said. Not since the Jim Crow era, said Jealous, have so many states enacted legislation to restrict voter access. The new campaign marries the twin causes of political money restrictions and voting rights, and brings together more than two dozen environmental, labor, civil rights and other progressive groups.

Organizers on Thursday also released two reports further detailing the record sums of unrestricted money spent during the 2012 election by often-undisclosed sources.

The first, “Billion-Dollar Democracy,” put out by Demos and U.S. PIRG, notes that 32 big donors and corporations underwriting super PACs managed to outspend all the low-dollar donors who gave to President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns combined.

The second, “Elections Confidential,” produced by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Center for Media and Democracy, concluded that nearly one-fifth of all the business donations to super PACs came from shell corporations that masked the true source of the funding, among other findings.

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