AUSTIN -- The U.S. Supreme Court has plenty to consider over the next few days, but it's a decision the court made back in 2010 that led to a revolution in the way political campaigns are waged.
Demonstrators in Austin are asking Texas' U.S. Senate and Congressional delegations to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that led to the creation of super PACs able to raise unlimited money to spend on campaigns.
A dozen members of a handful of Austin advocacy groups met Thursday afternoon to deliver a petition asking U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) to consider overturning the court decision granting corporations the right of political speech in the form of spending on elections.
"I have nothing against corporations having rights, but they are not to have in our political system the kind of influence they have, and that's the problem," said Austin Coffee Party member Ed Kopas. "It opens up floodgates to big money in politics. It opens up a lot of ways to not disclose huge donors."
"It's going to diminish the vote of the individual," said MoveOn Austin member Bill Hamm. "Both sides in Congress are guilty of succumbing to the corporate cash."
"There's too much influence of money on politics," said Rochelle Day with Move to Amend. "A few individuals with a lot of money are influencing the way our elections turn out, and affecting legislation our representatives are supposed to be passing on our behalf."
The issue of super PAC spending has taken center stage in the race to fill Texas' other seat in the U.S. Senate. Organizations backing Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and former state solicitor general Ted Cruz have spent millions on TV ads.
According to the Federal Election Commission, super PACs have spent about $3 million to help elect Dewhurst, compared to $17 million spent by the campaign. Cruz's campaign has spent about $4.4 million, while benefitting from $3.8 million spent by super PACs. Most of the super PAC money in the U.S. Senate race has been spent on televised attacks ads targeting the opposition.
Perhaps no one has brought more attention to issue than Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert, whose real super PAC "Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow" has produced satirical ads poking fun at other super PACs and the Citizens United ruling.
"Come on, that is bribing, that is corruption right there," student Paul Benefiel told KVUE in March, after the decision to start a Colbert satellite super PAC at the University of Texas earned him a mention on the evening cable show.
"I think it's wonderful," Kopas said of Colbert's approach. "He does it through satire and parody, and I absolutely love it. It shows the ridiculousness of this latest thing, where we have come."
Where their petition will go is of equal concern to the group, which also plans to visit the office of U.S. Congressman Michael McCaul (R-Austin) on Friday.
"Sen. Cornyn believes that in its original decision the Supreme Court acted to protect the bedrock constitutional rights of free speech and association," spokesperson Jessica Sandlin told KVUE Thursday. Sandlin says staff met with members of the group, and will share the information discussed with the senator.