The great journey to undo the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision took another step today when Sen. Bernie Sanders filed the constitutional amendment that will give power back to the people.
The amendment contains three sections. Section I states, “Section I. Whereas the right to vote in public elections belongs only to natural persons as citizens of the United States, so shall the ability to make contributions and expenditures to influence the outcomes of public elections belong only to natural persons in accordance with this Article.”
In plain English, this section overturns Citizens United by barring any entity that doesn’t have the right to vote from donating to campaigns.
Section II states, “Section II.Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to restrict the power of Congress and the States to protect the integrity and fairness of the electoral process, limit the corrupting influence of private wealth in public elections, and guarantee the dependence of elected officials on the people alone by taking actions which may include the establishment of systems of public financing for elections, the imposition of requirements to ensure the disclosure of contributions and expenditures made to influence the outcome of a public election by candidates, individuals, and associations of individuals, and the imposition of content neutral limitations on all such contributions and expenditures.”
This section gives Congress and states the power set up a publicly funded electoral system. This section also undoes the Buckley v. Valeo (1976) decision that ruled money is speech, and gave individuals the right to spend unlimited sums of money independent of candidates.
The final section of the amendment makes ensures that nothing in the amendment infringes on the freedom of the press.
In a statement, Sen. Sanders said, “What the Supreme Court did in Citizens United is to tell billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, ‘You own and control Wall Street. You own and control coal companies. You own and control oil companies. Now, for a very small percentage of your wealth, we’re going to give you the opportunity to own and control the United States government.’ That is the essence of what Citizens United is all about. That is why this disastrous decision must be reversed.”
The amendment requires a 2/3 majority in both the House and the Senate for passage. If it would pass both bodies with the required majority, it would then move on to the states, where a 3/4 majority is required for ratification.
There is absolutely zero chance that this amendment will make it out of Congress, but the importance of the gesture is that it brings attention to the Citizens United decision. While the media is obsessed with whatever partisan battle has distracted it like a jangling keys in front of a baby, our electoral process is still being hijacked.
The easiest way to get rid of Citizens United would be to replace one of the conservative justices with an Obama appointee, but that is not a certainty. People who care about the health of our representative democracy have to make their voices heard. If this issue gets pushed into the darkness the corporations, special interests, and billionaires win.
The billionaires have the money, but the people have the numbers. Money can never be allowed to purchase liberty. The people must stand tall, and speak loudly until Citizens United has been undone.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association