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Protests to 'occupy' US courthouses over corporate spending in federal elections
NEW YORK (AP) ' Protesters plan to "occupy" courthouses in more than 100 cities across the U.S. on Friday to protest a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that removed most limits on corporate and labor spending in federal elections.
The grassroots coalition, called Move to Amend, said the protest will kick off petition drives to gain support for a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United v. FEC, a 2010 court ruling that allowed private groups to spend huge amounts on political campaigns with few restrictions. Occupy Wall Street activists are joining the protest.
"The courts created the idea that the corporation is a person with constitutional rights," said David Cobb, an Occupy the Courts organizer. "It's the justification for the whole corporate takeover of our government."
The ruling and others stripped away some limits on campaign contributions and led the the emergence of super political action committees. They can't coordinate directly with campaigns, but many active in this election are staffed by longtime supporters or former aides of candidates.
The groups can spend unlimited amounts of cash to influence elections and so far have paid for at least $10 million in ads in the Republican race to choose a candidate to challenge President Barack Obama in November.
Many of the groups' donors will remain secret until Jan. 31, when some of the super PACs are required to report their finances to the Federal Election Commission.
Activists in New York scrambled to move their protest after a judge ruled Thursday that demonstrators do not have a First Amendment right to protest in front of a federal courthouse.
Protesters had filed a lawsuit asking the judge to overturn the government's rejection of their permit application. The permit had been denied on grounds that the courthouse poses unique security concerns.