Bernie Sanders Files A New Constitutional Amendment To Overturn Citizens United


Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is renewing his efforts to rid the country of Citizens United by introducing a new constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court’s decision.

The amendment states:

SECTION 1. 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 outcome of public elections belong only to natural persons in accordance with this Article.

SECTION 2. 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 neutra limitations on all such contributions and expenditures.

SECTION 3. Nothing in this Article shall be construed to alter the freedom of the press.

Sen. Sanders had to propose a new amendment because legislation that isn’t acted on by the previous Congress expires at the end of the session. Since Congress didn’t act on the amendment the last time Sanders filed it, he is bringing it back in the new Congress.

The key section of the amendment is Section 2. The second section would halt the Supreme Court’s money is free speech interpretation of the Constitution. The first section of the amendment deals directly with the idea that corporations are people, but the second section overturns the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo Supreme Court decision that money is speech. The second section of the amendment would throw out the entire basis for the Supreme Court’s rulings in campaign finance cases.

When Sen. Sanders introduced this amendment in 2013, he 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.”

President Obama endorsed the Sanders constitutional amendment in 2012, and explained the rationale behind it, “Money has always been a factor in politics, but we are seeing something new in the no-holds barred flow of seven and eight figure checks, most undisclosed, into super-PACs; they fundamentally threaten to overwhelm the political process over the long run and drown out the voices of ordinary citizens. We need to start with passing the Disclose Act that is already written and been sponsored in Congress – to at least force disclosure of who is giving to who. We should also pass legislation prohibiting the bundling of campaign contributions from lobbyists. Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t revisit it). Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.”

The point of the constitutional amendment isn’t passage. The point is to bring attention to the issue of what Citizens United continues to do to our electoral process. The most likely path to overturning Citizens United remains a Democratic presidential victory in the 2016 election. Two of the conservatives Justices who made up the majority in the Citizens United decision are 78 years old. The odds of one or both justices serving the last two years of President Obama’s term and another eight years under another potential Democratic president are slim. (It also wouldn’t be surprising to see the 81 year old Ruth Bader Ginsburg retire before President Obama leaves office.) The Supreme Court is due for a generational change, and if Democrats control the White House, that change could result in a 5-4 liberal leaning court.

In the meantime, Sen. Sanders is leading the fight to inform the American people about the toxic nature of unlimited money in their electoral process. The movement to overturn Citizens United needs and educated population, because outside of the Supreme Court, public pressure is the best way to get the billionaire dollars out of our elections is to have tens of millions of voices demand it.

15 Replies to “Bernie Sanders Files A New Constitutional Amendment To Overturn Citizens United”

  1. The trouble is that this effstick Congress isn’t going to approve anyone Obama nominates. The wingers plan on having the present Court enable their ill-gotten electoral victories, and then, in turn, a Republican executive and senate create a permanent lock on the courts, from top to bottom.

  2. How much love do I have for Sanders, Warren, Grayson and a few others who are on the front lines fighting GOP fascism? These people rock.

  3. The reason theses individuals are doing this is not so money can somehow stop its corrupting its influence in politics but the truth is even thought Bernie does not what to hear it money in politics is speech because that gives you the ability to raise funds for a general message . Their real goal is to limit money in politics but instead silence economic conservatives and libtarains because we don’t belong to their so called social justice and collectivist agenda . Who would know the atcuhal truth that left wing labor unions spend more money on federal elections then any Conservative group commended !

  4. It looks like it will get worse
    The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on Wednesday in Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, a case that could extend the Court’s Citizen’s United decision all the way into courtrooms around the country. The case is challenging Florida’s Code of Judicial Conduct which prohibits judges and candidates for judgeships from personally soliciting campaign donations or from getting public endorsements from attorneys. They can establish campaign committees to do those things, but can’t do them personally. This case could overturn similar bans in 30 states.

  5. These kinds of things are why we need to keep Bernie and Elizabeth in the Senate. They have more power to get things done as Senators than as President. Witness President Obama. He can not do what he wants as President. The House controls the purse strings. That is why Paul Ryan is not running for President. He chairs the Ways and Means committee. He has much more power in that position.

  6. WTF? This article says “The point of the constitutional amendment isn’t passage. ” OH YES IT IS! The point of the amendment is that we need to do it!

  7. Lol, the pundits are trying to say that he’s trying to re-write the constitution.

    So, where is Citizens united in the first amendment?

  8. The wording of the 13th Amendment is:

    Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

    Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.[1]

    The word party surely includes corporations and other ‘fictive’ persons.

    This suggests that the avenue of sentencing them to ongoing ‘indentured servitude’ for a period of time wherein part to all their income after expenses reverts to the State is a possibility under this constitutional provision.

    This should be explored and pushed alongside Bernie Sanders Amendment, especially since it does not require a Constitutional Amendment to be effective.

    I hope some readers bring this to Sanders attention, and to the courts.

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