Campaign finance reform amendment

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A campaign finance reform amendment refers to any proposed amendment to the United States Constitution to authorize greater restrictions on spending related to political speech, and to overturn Supreme Court rulings which have narrowed such laws under the First Amendment. Several amendments have been filed since Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and the Occupy movement.

History[edit]

In response to the Occupy Wall Street protests and the worldwide occupy movement calling for U.S. campaign finance reform eliminating corporate influence in politics, among other reforms, Representative Ted Deutch introduced the "Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy" (OCCUPIED) constitutional amendment on November 18, 2011.[1][2] The OCCUPIED amendment would outlaw the use of for-profit corporation money in U.S. election campaigns and give Congress and states the authority to create a public campaign finance system.[3] Unions and non-profit organizations will still be able to contribute to campaigns.[4] On November 1, 2011, Senator Tom Udall also introduced a constitutional amendment in Congress to reform campaign finance which would allow Congress and state legislatures to establish public campaign finance.[5] Two other constitutional campaign finance reform amendments were introduced in Congress in November, 2011.[6] Similar amendments have been advanced by Dylan Ratigan,[7] Karl Auerbach,[8] Cenk Uygur through Wolf PAC,[9] and other political organizations, such as Move to Amend[10] and American Promise.[11][12][13]

Harvard law professor and Creative Commons board member Lawrence Lessig had called for a constitutional convention[14] in a September 24–25, 2011 conference co-chaired by the Tea Party Patriots' national coordinator,[15] in Lessig's October 5 book, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress – and a Plan to Stop It,[16] and at the Occupy protest in Washington, DC.[17] Reporter Dan Froomkin said the book offers a manifesto for the Occupy Wall Street protestors, focusing on the core problem of corruption in both political parties and their elections,[18] and Lessig provides credibility to the movement.[19] Lessig's initial constitutional amendment would allow legislatures to limit political contributions from non-citizens, including corporations, anonymous organizations, and foreign nationals, and he also supports public campaign financing and electoral college reform to establish the one person, one vote principle.[20] Lessig's web site convention.idea.informer.com allows anyone to propose and vote on constitutional amendments.[21] On October 15, the Occupy Wall Street Demands Working Group, published the 99 Percent Declaration[22] of demands, goals, and solutions, including a call to amend the U.S. Constitution to reform campaign finance.[23][24][25] Occupy movement protesters have joined the call for a constitutional amendment.[26][27][28][29]

Background[edit]

See also: Corporate personhood See also: Campaign finance reform in the United States

The proposed amendment would establish that (1) constitutional rights are reserved for natural persons only, (2) that artificial entities (corporations, limited liability companies, and other incorporated entities established by the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state) have no rights under the Constitution and are subject to regulation through federal, state, or local law and (3) the privileges of such entities cannot be construed as inherent or inalienable. It would also require federal, state, and local governments to (1) regulate, limit, or prohibit political contributions or expenditures, including those made by a candidate, (2) require public disclosure of political contributions and expenditures, and (3) prohibit the courts from construing the spending of money to influence elections is not protected under the First Amendment. The amendment was proposed in response to the implications presented in the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), a U.S. constitutional law case concerning the regulation of independent political expenditures by corporations, which the non-profit organization Citizens United challenged on the grounds of violating the First Amendment’s freedom of speech.

The basis for extending free speech rights under the doctrine of corporate personhood dates back over a century to Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company (1886). In this case, Chief Justice Morrison Waite began oral argument by stating, "The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does."[30][31]

The debate of corporate constitutional rights can be parsed into the legal definitions of corporation and personhood, the latter term being controversial in regards to the philosophical debate over where human personhood begins and the legal debate over where legal personhood ends. Under US law, corporations are extended at least some legal rights and responsibilities as natural persons, such as the right to enter into contracts and to sue or be sued. However, the framers of the US Constitution had originally reserved constitutional protections for individual citizens and had not intended such protections to be inherent or inalienable for their organizations incorporated under law. In fact, Chief Justice Waite’s statement in Santa Clara County was inserted in the headnote, which was not part of the Court’s opinion and not considered precedent, but the doctrine was clearly affirmed in subsequent cases in Pembina Consolidated Silver Mining Co. v. Pennsylvania (1888) and Minneapolis and Saint Louis Railway v. Beckwith (1889).[32][33]

In the 307 Fourteenth Amendment cases heard by the Supreme Court in the years following Santa Clara County, 288 cases involved corporations compared to 19 cases involving African Americans, its intended recipients.[34] The Court reaffirmed its Santa Clara County precedent in the landmark case Lochner v. New York (1905), which expanded corporate deregulation under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses. A year later, the Court extended corporate personhood to include search and seizure protections under the Fourth Amendment in Hale v. Henkel (1906), from which dissenting Justice John Marshall Harlan stated, "to look into the books, records and papers of a corporation of its own creation, to ascertain whether that corporation has obeyed or is defying the law, will be greatly curtailed, if not destroyed." The Court later deemed in Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon (1922) that a regulation by state government is a form of takings and ruled that corporations are protected from "private lands being taken for public use without just compensation" and therefore entitled to compensation for lost profit under the Fifth Amendment. During this period known as the Lochner era, the Court cited the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause in halting over 200 regulations intended for corporations. Despite the Court’s recognition of corporate personhood under the Fourteenth Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause would not be applied to women until the case Reed v. Reed (1971).[35][36][37][38]

In the case of Citizens United, the extension of corporate personhood to include free speech rights was premised on the First Amendment’s Freedom of the Press Clause, which protects associations of individuals, including individual speakers. The Court ruled that Corporations (as associations of individuals) are entitled to free speech rights because the First Amendment does not allow prohibitions of speech based on the identity of the speaker. Furthermore, the Court extended its precedents set in Buckley v. Valeo (1976), which asserted corporate spending to political candidates and parties is the equivalent of free speech, and First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti (1978), which established that non-media business corporations can give unrestricted money to "influence or affect" voter opinions in state political referenda. [39][40]

Proposed amendments[edit]

Saving American Democracy Amendment[edit]

The Saving American Democracy Amendment is a United States constitutional amendment proposed in December 2011 by Senators Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) "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."[41] The Saving American Democracy Amendment was meant to overturn the 2010 United States Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which stated that freedom of speech prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by a nonprofit corporation[42][43][44]. This was the first constitutional amendment proposed by Sanders in his two decades in Congress.[45] The text of the amendment reads as follows:

Section 1. The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons and do not extend to for-profit corporations, limited liability companies, or other private entities established for business purposes or to promote business interests under the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state.

Section 2. Such corporate and other private entities established under law are subject to regulation by the people through the legislative process so long as such regulations are consistent with the powers of Congress and the States and do not limit the freedom of the press.

Section 3. Such corporate and other private entities shall be prohibited from making contributions or expenditures in any election of any candidate for public office or the vote upon any ballot measure submitted to the people.

Section 4. Congress and the States shall have the power to regulate and set limits on all election contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own spending, and to authorize the establishment of political committees to receive, spend, and publicly disclose the sources of those contributions and expenditures.[46]

The amendment was introduced in the Senate on December 8, 2011. It was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. The Saving American Democracy amendment proposed in the Senate was a companion bill to one proposed in the House by Representative Ted Deutch (D-Florida).[47] Deutch's amendment was referred to the House's Subcommittee on the Constitution. Both Sanders' Saving American Democracy Amendment and Deutch's amendment failed to pass.

Democracy For All Amendment[edit]

The Democracy For All Amendment, was introduced in both the 113th, and 114th Congresses. It would grant Congress and the States the ability to limit the raising and spending of money in campaigns for public office. It would also grant Congress and the States the ability to distinguish between a natural person and an artificial entity, such as a corporation. The resolution was introduced in the Senate by Senator Tom Udall and in the House by Representative Ted Deutch during both congresses. During the 113th congress the resolution received 129 co-sponsors in the House(all democrats), and 48 co-sponsors in the Senate (46 Democrats, 2 Independents). In the Senate the resolution was never voted on, and in the House it was sent to House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice. the In the 2015 (114th congress) version the resolution received 162 co-sponsors (161 Democrats, 1 Republican) in the House, while in the Senate, the resolution received 42 co-sponsors (40 Democrats, 2 Independents). The resolution was sent to the House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, and Senate Committee on the Judiciary, but failed to pass either.[48][49][50][51][52]

We the People Amendment[edit]

The We The People Amendment is a joint resolution to amend the United States Constitution to abolish the doctrines of corporate personhood and money equals political speech. It was introduced by Representative Rick Nolan as H.J.Res. 29 on February 23, 2013. It has been re-introduced two more times as H.J.Res. 48 on April 29, 2015 and again as H.J.Res. 48 on January 30, 2017.

Text of legislation[edit]

Section 1. The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only. Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other 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. 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 that person’s 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 governments 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.

Introduction[edit]

In the 113th Congress, the We the People Amendment received 3 co-sponsors from the Democratic Party. In the 114th Congress, it garnered 23 co-sponsors (22 Democrats, 1 Republican). In the 115th Congress, it has 51 co-sponsors (50 Democrats, 1 Republican).

As of September 2017, the joint resolution is in the House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice under the House Committee on the Judiciary.[53]

People's Rights Amendment[edit]

On November 15, 2011, Representative James P. McGovern introduced the People's Rights Amendment, a proposal to limit the Constitution's protections only to the rights of natural persons, and not corporations. This amendment would overturn the United States Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.[54]

Supporters[edit]

Organizations which advocate for an anti-corporate personhood amendment to the Constitution include Move to Amend, Wolf PAC, Mayday PAC and American Promise.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Deutch, T. (November 18, 2011) "H.J. Res. 90" bill text, 112th Congress (2011–2012) THOMAS.loc.gov
  2. ^ Ted Deutch for Congress Committee (November 18, 2011) "About the OCCUPIED Amendment" Archived November 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine theoccupiedamendment.org
  3. ^ Khimm, S. (November 18, 2011) "House Democrat: Occupy the Constitution!" Washington Post
  4. ^ Portero, A. (November 22, 2011) "House Democrat Introduces OCCUPIED Constitutional Amendment to Ban Corporate Money in Politics" International Business Times
  5. ^ Udall, T. (November 1, 2011) "A Constitutional Amendment to Reform Campaign Finance" 112th Congress, 1st Session (Washington, D.C.: United States Senate)
  6. ^ Carney, E.N. (November 29, 2011) "Advocacy Groups Seek to Curb Corporations" Roll Call
  7. ^ Ratigan, D. (2011) "It's Time to GET MONEY OUT of politics" GetMoneyOut.com
  8. ^ Auerbach, K. (2011) "Proposed Amendment to the United States Constitution To Redress the Increasing Distortion of Elections and Political Speech by Corporations and Other Aggregate Forms" Archived April 25, 2012, at the Wayback Machine cavebear.com/amendment
  9. ^ Blumenthal, P. (October 20, 2011) "Cenk Uygur Launches New Effort To Separate Money And Politics" Huffington Post
  10. ^ Dolan, Eric W. (December 6, 2011). "Los Angeles votes to end corporate personhood". Rawstory. Retrieved December 26, 2011.
  11. ^ Clements, Jeff (February 26, 2016). "Justices matter but amendments matter more". The Hill. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  12. ^ Public Citizen (January 21, 2011) "One Year Later, Movement Is Growing to Overturn Citizens United" Citizen.org
  13. ^ Shane, P.M. (October 11, 2011) "Occupy the Constitution" Huffington Post
  14. ^ "The Movement to Organize the Call for a Convention" CallAConvention.org
  15. ^ Conference on the Constitutional Convention, Harvard University, September 24–25, 2011
  16. ^ Lessig, L. (2011) Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress – and a Plan to Stop It Archived 2012-04-29 at the Wayback Machine (New York City: Hachette/Twelve) excerpt
  17. ^ Tackett, C. (October 19, 2011) "Could #OccupyWallStreet Become a Constitutional Convention?" Discovery / TreeHugger.com
  18. ^ Froomkin, D. (October 5, 2011) "Lawrence Lessig's New Book On Political Corruption Offers Protesters A Possible Manifesto" Huffington Post
  19. ^ Oremus, W. (October 5, 2011) "Academics Help Wall Street Protests Gain Credibility" Archived 2011-12-07 at the Wayback Machine Slate
  20. ^ Hill, A. (October 4, 2011) "Campaign finance, lobbying major roadblocks to effective government" Archived July 13, 2012, at Archive.today Marketplace Morning Report (American Public Media)
  21. ^ Lessig, L. (2011) "Propose Amendments to the Constitution" convention.idea.informer.com
  22. ^ New York City General Assembly Demands Working Group (October 15, 2011) "The 99 Percent Declaration." Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  23. ^ Duda, C. (October 19, 2011) "Occupy Wall Street Protesters Call for National General Assembly, Put Forward Possible Demands" Juvenile Justice Information Exchange
  24. ^ Lopez, L. (October 19, 2011) "Finally! The Protesters Have Drafted A Set Of Demands For The Jobs Crisis" Archived April 2, 2012, at the Wayback Machine Business Insider
  25. ^ Haack, D. (October 24, 2011) "How the Occupy movement won me over" The Guardian
  26. ^ Manning, B. (October 21, 2011) "Lynch Shares Views on 'Occupy' Movement" Needham, Mass. Patch
  27. ^ Crugnale, J. (October 14, 2011) "Russell Simmons: Occupy Wall Street Protesters Want Constitutional Amendment" Mediaite
  28. ^ Niose, D. (October 13, 2011) "What the Occupy Wall Street Protesters Want – Constitutional amendment on corporations is a starting point" Psychology Today
  29. ^ McCabe, J. (October 21, 2011) "Dear Occupy Wall Street: 'Move to Amend' (the Constitution)" NewsTimes.com
  30. ^ "Citizens United v. Federal Election Commissionl". law.cornell.com. Cornell Law School.
  31. ^ "Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Companyl". findlaw.com. Findlaw.
  32. ^ "Pembina Consolidated Silver Mining Co. v. Pennsylvania". findlaw.com. Findlaw.
  33. ^ "Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway v. Beckwith". findlaw.com. Findlaw.
  34. ^ Hartman, Thom (2002). Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights. New York: St. Martin's Press.
  35. ^ "Lochner v. New York". findlaw.com. Findlaw.
  36. ^ "Hale v. Henkel". findlaw.com. Findlaw.
  37. ^ "Pennsylvania Coal Company v. Mahon". findlaw.com. Findlaw.
  38. ^ "Reed v. Reed". findlaw.com. Findlaw.
  39. ^ "lBuckley v. Valeo". law.cornell.com. Cornell Law School.
  40. ^ "lFirst National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti". findlaw.com. Findlaw.
  41. ^ 112th Congress, S.J.Res.33
  42. ^ Remsen, Nancy (December 8, 2011). "Sen. Bernie Sanders, I–Vt., offers constitutional amendment on corporate "citizenship"". The Burlington Free Press. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012.
  43. ^ Saving American Democracy Amendment
  44. ^ Saving American Democracy Amendment. 8 Dec 2011. Sanders Senate web site
  45. ^ "Saving American Democracy Amendment". Bernie Sanders, United States Senator for Vermont. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  46. ^ 112th Congress, S.J.Res.33
  47. ^ 112th Congress, H.J.Res.90
  48. ^ "S.J.Res.19 - A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections". Congress.gov. Library of Congress.
  49. ^ "H.J.Res.119 - Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections". Congress.gov. Library of Congress.
  50. ^ "The Democracy For All Amendment". Free Speech for People. Retrieved June 13, 2017.
  51. ^ "S.J.Res.5 - A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections". Congress.gov. Library of Congress. Retrieved June 13, 2017.
  52. ^ "H.J.Res.22 - Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections". Congress.gov. Library of Congress. Retrieved June 13, 2017.
  53. ^ "H.J.Res. 48 - Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States providing that the rights extended by the Constitution are the rights of natural persons only". Congress.gov. Library of Congress.
  54. ^ 112th Congress, H.J.Res. 88 at Congress.gov