CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Signs displayed in the state Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday morning included: "Corporations are Redefining 'Buy American'," "Corporations Are Not People" and "Money Out, Voters In."
More than 100 people attended a "Rally for Democracy" to protest the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision.
Public Citizen, the West Virginia Citizen Action Group and several labor unions helped organize the event.
The 2010 Citizens United decision allows corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money to independent groups backing or opposing candidates for federal political office.
Before Citizens United, corporations were not allowed to make political contributions. The decision, however, did not overturn the existing ban against corporations giving directly to candidates.
"Democracy runs best when people are informed. Citizens United tries to keep people in the dark," said state Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall.
"I have never heard anyone say we have a better election process when we keep people in the dark. Corporations are not people," Kessler said.
West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said, "Corporations are becoming the biggest spenders. Eleven states and more than 350 cities have already passed resolutions to end Citizens United. The Constitution says, 'We the People,' not 'We the Corporations'."
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said, "Democracy is not about 'Winner Takes All.' I will fight to defend the access of all voters to the ballot box. Our democracy is only as strong as its most vulnerable voters."
Former secretary of state Edgar "Hike" Heiskell III said, "The people of this nation spent 237 years fighting those who want us to be ruled by the rich and powerful. Big money and Wall Street [leaders] can take their annual $40 million payments and put them into elections.
"The hard-working middle class has to work more and work harder to make ends meet," said Heiskell, a former Republican now registered as an independent. He served on the Republican National Committee from 1987 to 1990.
"We are headed back to a state where the rich and powerful dominate us," Heiskell said.
"Donors are allowed to hide beneath secrecy. They are using masks like super PACs and newly created corporations to influence politics because of Citizens United. The time is now for West Virginians to reverse the influence of the rich and powerful."