CURRENT CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT EFFORTS
Fix Our America at this point supports all proposed Constitutional amendments that would limit or end the role of private and corporate money in political elections. Even so, our ultimate mission is to build public support for an overarching amendment that would provide a system of public financing of all election campaigns (no private money at all except a very limited amount in the signature gathering stage to get on the ballot) and a mandated full-weekend for voting, rather than the current required first Tuesday.
Several amendment resolutions have been introduced in Congress since the summer of 2011, backed by more than 150 members of Congress, including a number of Republicans. These have been supported by municipal resolutions from more than 500 local entities, including Los Angeles and New York City, and by 16 state legislatures.
Similar campaign finance reform resolutions have been introduced into most governing bodies in the country, local and state, mostly calling for a Constitutional amendment that at least overturns the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in the Citizens United Case. This decision declared money to be free speech and for the first time gave corporations, the wealthy and labor unions the right to spend unlimited funds on election campaigns via what quickly became known as Super PACS (Political Action Committees supposedly independent of any candidate’s official campaign structure).
Meanwhile, a coalition of 11 state attorneys general has sent a letter to Congress urging support for an amendment that would overturn Citizens United; 23 attorney generals filed support briefs for Montana's court fight to keep its more than 100-year-old campaign finance laws preventing money influence out of its elections - laws overturned by Citizens United. The current Supreme Court majority which sees no problems for democracy in allowing the buying of elections, ruled against Montanta.
Click Here to see if your lawmakers are supporting the amendments.
Here is an overview of the major resolutions introduced in or lobbied to Congress that would change the Constitution's approach to campaign financing. Also included below are some proposed Amendments from outsider organizations that have not been introduced in Congress.
*The best known perhaps is the proposed effort supported by former MSNBC afternoon anchor Dylan Ratigan, who often devoted his daily show to what he flatly called corruption and legalized bribery of Congress and the state legislatures by corporate and special interest money. One of Ratigan’s former mainstay guests, Jimmy Williams, is a former lobbyist turned reformer who drafted an amendment focused only on banning all private money. Ratigan promoted this early in 2012 with a petition signed by more than 200,000 people. Here is the language:
"No person, corporation or business entity of any type, domestic or foreign, shall be allowed to contribute money, directly or indirectly, to any candidate for Federal office or to contribute money on behalf of or opposed to any type of campaign for Federal office. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, campaign contributions to candidates for Federal office shall not constitute speech of any kind as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution or any amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Congress shall set forth a federal holiday for the purposes of voting for candidates for Federal office."
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*A number of well-known liberal groups are supporting a petition drive to get Congress to pass an end-corporate- money amendment. These include Move-On, People for the American Way and Public Citizen. In February, in the most recent action, Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) introduced an amendment bill drafted by Move-On researchers that provided the following:
Section 1. [Artificial Entities Such as Corporations Do Not Have Constitutional Rights]
The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.
Artificial entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.
The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.
Section 2. [Money is Not Free Speech]
Federal, State, and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate's own contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of their money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.
Federal, State, and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.
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Another one of the allied groups, FreeSpeechforPeople.org, has also proposed amendment language and is also seeking an amendment requiring public financing of elections (no language yet). Still another group, MovetoAmend.org, wants to see voting rights language included that would end the efforts of Republicans to limit the size of the electorate. The language of the Free Speech for People amendment is:
"Section 1. We the people who ordain and establish this Constitution intend the rights protected by this Constitution to be the rights of natural persons.
"Section 2. People, person, or persons as used in this Constitution does not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state, and such corporate entities are subject to such regulation as the people, through their elected state and federal representatives, deem reasonable and are otherwise consistent with the powers of Congress and the States under this Constitution.
"Section 3. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people's rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, and such other rights of the people, which rights are inalienable."
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Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), working with the Free Speech group, has introduced two constitutional amendment bills.
- One, the People's Rights Amendment, would overturn the fabricated corporate rights doctrine and make clear that corporations are not people with constitutional rights. The bill has bipartisan support from Republican Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina serving as a co-sponsor.
- The second bill would restore the authority of Congress and the States to regulate campaign expenditures, effectively overturning the Supreme Court's 1976 ruling in Buckley v. Valeo, which equated money with speech and sanctioned today's system of unlimited campaign spending. That bill closely mirrors a similar amendment bill led by Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico 1(see below). McGovern's version includes language that identifies the fundamental principle of political equality for all as a critical basis for the amendment.
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*Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) has introduced legislation that would create a Constitutional Amendment allowing regulation of campaign financing and which reads as follows:
"Section 1. Congress shall have power to set limits on the amount of contributions that may be accepted by, and the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to, a candidate for nomination for election to, or for election to, Federal office.
"Section 2. A State shall have power to set limits on the amount of contributions that may be accepted by, and the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to, a candidate for nomination for election to, or for election to, State or local office.
"Section 3. Congress shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation.’.”
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*U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Michael Bennet, both Democrats, introduced a Constitutional amendment to grant Congress the authority to regulate the campaign finance system. Joining Udall and Bennet as original co-sponsors were Sens. Tom Harkin, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, Sheldon Whitehouse and Jeff Merkley, all Democrats. Their amendment would authorize Congress to regulate the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns, including independent expenditures of Super PACS and others, and would allow states to regulate such spending at their level. It would also provide for implementation and enforcement of the amendment through legislation.
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*Sen. Bernie Sanders (Independent) of Vermont introduced in the U.S. Senate his “Saving American Democracy Amendment.” Democrat Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida introduced a companion measure in the U.S. House. Their proposal states that corporations would not have the same Constitutional rights as persons, that corporations are subject to regulation, that corporations may not make campaign contributions and that Congress has the power to regulate campaign finance.
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The Tikkun organization headed by Rabbi Michael Lerner, who is one of the advisory board members of Fix Our America, is promoting the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment (ESRA). The ESRA would overturn the Supreme Court's “Citizens’ United” decision but goes much further, mandating the pubic funding of all federal and state elections and the banning of any other source of funding, requiring major media to give free and equal time to all major candidates, and requiring corporations with incomes over $100 million a year to get a new corporate charter once every five years which will only be granted to those that can prove a satisfactory history of environmental and social responsibility to a jury of ordinary citizens, and mandating environmental and social responsibility oriented education at every grade level from k-through college and graduate or professional schools. The full text can be read at www.tikkun.org/ESRA.
*Another separate effort is being undertaken by a small group called ReclaimDemocracy.org. Its Amendment reads:
"An Amendment to Preclude Corporations from Claiming Bill of Rights Protections
"SECTION 1. The U.S. Constitution protects only the rights of living human beings.
"SECTION 2. Corporations and other institutions granted the privilege to exist shall be subordinate to any and all laws enacted by citizens and their elected governments.
"SECTION 3. Corporations and other for-profit institutions are prohibited from attempting to influence the outcome of elections, legislation or government policy through the use of aggregate resources or by rewarding or repaying employees or directors to exert such influence.
"SECTION 4. Congress shall have power to implement this article by appropriate legislation."
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ROUNDUP OF CONGRESSIONAL RESOLUTIONS
The below is courtesy of People for the American Way which has made amendment reform one of its mission targets. Several of the proposed amendments have some small measure of bi-partisan support; most initiatives derive from Democrats. A full roundup of state and local actions can be found at http://www.pfaw.org/issues/government-the-people/citizens-united-v-fec-constitutional-remedies-list-of-local-state-and-f
• S.J. Res. 35, introduced on January 24th, 2012, by Senator Max Baucus and Senator Jon Tester, proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States authorizing Congress and states to regulate the raising and spending of corporate and labor funds in support of or in opposition to candidates running for federal and states offices.
• H.J. Res. 8, introduced on January 5, 2011 Rep. Marcy Kaptur, proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to limitations on the amounts of contributions and expenditures that may be made in connection with campaigns for election to public office.
• H.J. Res. 72, introduced on July 13, 2011 by Rep. Kurt Schrader, proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States affirming the power of Congress and the States to regulate contribution of funds to candidates and the expenditure of funds intended to influence the outcome of elections.
• H.J. Res. 78, introduced on September 12, 2011 by Rep. Donna Edwards, proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to clarify the authority of Congress and the States to regulate the expenditure of funds for political activity by corporations.
• H.J. Res. 82, introduced on October 14, 2011 by Rep. Ted Deutch, proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States authorizing regulation of any expenditure in connection with an election.
• H.J. Res. 86, introduced on November 4, 2011 by Rep. Betty Sutton, proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision on the Citizens United v. FEC.
• H.J. Res. 88, introduced on November 15, 2011 by Rep. Jim McGovern, proposes an amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United v. FEC and to make clear that corporations are not people.
• H.J. Res. 90, introduced on November 18, 2011 by Rep. Ted Deutch, proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to expressly exclude for-profit corporations from the rights given to natural persons by the Constitution of the United States, prohibit corporate spending in all elections, and affirm the authority of Congress and the States to regulate corporations and to regulate and set limits on all election contributions and expenditures.
• H.J. Res. 92, introduced on December 6, 2011 by Rep. Keith Ellison, proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to the authority of Congress and the States to regulate the disbursement of funds for political activity by for-profit corporations and other for-profit business organizations.
• H.J. Res. 97, introduced on December 20th, 2011 by Rep. John Yarmuth and Rep. Walter Jones, proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States declaring that spending on elections does not qualify as protected speech under the First Amendment, giving Congress the authority to create a public financing system as the sole source of funding for federal elections, and designating a national holiday for the purpose of voting.
• H.J. Res. 100, introduced on January 18th, 2012 by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States declaring that elections should be publicly funded, and that Congress and the states have the right regulate independent expenditures.
• S.J. Res. 28, introduced on February 24, 2010 by Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-C), Arlen Specter (D-PA), proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States affirming the power of Congress to regulate financing of federal elections and the power of states to regulate financing of state elections.
• S.J.Res. 29, introduced on November 1, 2011 by Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Mark Begich (D-AK), proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision on the Citizens United v. FEC.
• S.J. Res. 33, introduced on December 8th, 2011 by Senator Bernie Sanders, proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to expressly exclude for-profit corporations from the rights given to natural persons by the Constitution of the United States, prohibit corporate spending in all elections, and affirm the authority of Congress and the States to regulate corporations and to regulate and set limits on all election contributions and expenditures.
• S.J. Res. 36, introduced on July 27, 2010 by Senator Max Baucus, proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relative to authorizing regulation of contributions to candidates for State public office and Federal office by corporations and labor organizations, and expenditures by corporate entities and labor organizations in support of, or opposition to such candidates.
• H.J. Res. 68, introduced on January 21, 2010 by Rep. Leonard Boswell, proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States prohibiting corporations and labor organizations from using their operating funds to pay for political ads.
• H.J. Res. 74, introduced on February 2, 2010 by Rep. Donna Edwards, proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States permitting Congress and the States to regulate the expenditure of funds by corporations engaging in political speech.
• H.J. Res. 82, introduced on April 14, 2010 by Rep. Paul W. Hodes, proposes the "Doris 'Granny D' Haddock Amendment of 2010" to the Constitution of the United States regarding the authority of Congress and the States to regulate the spending and activities of corporations with regard to political campaigns and campaigns for election for public office.
• H.J. Res. 84, introduced on May 13, 2010 by Rep. Kurt Schrader, proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States giving Congress power to regulate campaign contributions for Federal elections.