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Amendment Proposed to Ban Corporations from Campaign Spending

 

On March 12, Senator Bernie Sanders (VT-I) introduced the “Democracy Is For People” amendment "to restore the rights of the American people that were taken away by the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case.. and limit the corrosive influence of money in our democratic process."    It stipulates that the right to spend money to influence the outcomes of federal elections should be reserved exclusively for people, as opposed to corporations, nonprofits, and other private entities, and calls for measures such as public financing for elections, public disclosure of campaign donations, and restrictions on donations coming from individuals and organizations. 

 

In order for the proposed amendment to pass, it needs to be adopted through a two-third majority vote in both the Senate and the House (Ted Deutsch, D-FL is the sponsor in the latter), and ratified by three-fourths of all states within 7 years.

 

The amendment seeks to overturn the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC case, in which a divided (5-4) Supreme Court found that the right of the corporations to spend money on elections should be interpreted as an exercise of free speech, protected under the First Amendment of the US Consitution, striking down the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (also known as the McCain–Feingold Act).   This highly controversial and unprecedented decision was welcomed by conservative circles, including the Republican National Committee.  By contrast, Democrats and progressive groups scolded the ruling which they see as dangerous for the democratic process and political accountability.  President Obama criticized the decision personally in his State of the Union Address.

 

The effects of the ruling were clearly visible in the 2012 presidential race.  Nationwide campaign spending reached an all-time high– an astonishing $7 billion, a bulk of which came through outside spending by PACs and Super PACs, organizations created solely for that purpose.  It is precisely this kind of spending– the vast majority of which goes toward broadcasting negative campaign commercials in the months leading up to the election– that leads activists such as Al Gore to proclaim that "our Democracy has been hacked."   It affects Congress as well- According to Washington Post's Wonkblog, Members of Congress spend "four hours dialing for dollars each day and another hour or two attending fundraising breakfasts and lunches.... The fact is that fundraising is squeezing everything else out." 

 

The Democracy is For People Amendment has been gaining momentum across the country over the last two months.  Thirteen states have passed symbolic resolutions calling for the adoption of the amendment.  These states are: West Virginia, Colorado, Montana, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, Maryland, Vermont, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Maine.  What is particularly significant is that in some of these cases the resolutions passed with strong bipartisan support, with independents and Republicans actively joining the initiative of Democrat senators and representatives.  This bears testimony to the importance of the issue to local politicians across the entire political spectrum.  

 

In addition, many nonprofits have been very actively pressing for the adoption of the bill.  United for The People is a one-stop resource that lists all the state and local resolutions favoring the Democracy Is for People Amendment, as well as local and state politicians who have expressed their support for the initiative.  The website also lists all the major nonrprofit organizations that endorsed the amendment.  

Petitions, activist tools, and other ways to get involved can be found on the website of Democracy Is For People, a project of the nonprofit Public Citizen.  The website also features a nationwide map that tracks the growing support for the amendment across the country, as well as keeps the public informed on the recent development in the case.  

Other major nonprofits in this field include Democracy 21, CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington), and Move to Amend – a broad coalition of hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals determined to have the Amendment passed.  In mid-January, on the occasion of Martn Luther King holiday and the third anniversary of the Supreme Court 2010 ruling, a number of events were held across the nation through the Voters In, Money Out initiative.  

 

 

 

Watch Al Gore explain how our democracy has been hacked by corporate political spending on NBC's Today Show:

 

 

See our media gallery below to learn more about the organizations supporting an amendment to overturn Citizens United: