WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of members of Congress, led by Reps. Richard Nolan, D.-Minn. and Walter Jones, R-N.C., has introduced a proposed constitutional amendment to take big money out of politics.
They call it the “We The People” amendment.”
The measure is similar to other proposals aimed at addressing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision that the Constitution allows corporations to have the same right as individual citizens to contribute to political campaigns. As a result, corporations have been backing individual candidates, political action committees and “super” political action committees with billions of dollars. The Supreme Court decision – Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission – allows some political action committees (so-called “super PACS”) to withhold from the public their funding sources.
A statement from Nolan’s office says that Citizens United granted corporations and other legal entities the right of free speech under the First Amendment and opened federal election campaigns to the free flow of billions of unrestricted and unreported dollars.
“Corporations are not individuals and money does not equal freedom of speech,” Nolan’s statement says.
Despite wide public support and backing from the 59-group Democracy Coalition, founded by the Communications Workers of America, the Nolan-Jones proposal has little chance of going anywhere. Constitutional amendments need approval of two-thirds of each house of Congress and three-fourths of the states.
That’s a high hurdle, especially since many of the Republicans who now run both the House and Senate depended upon corporate funding to win their elections.
Move To Amend, a newly formed coalition of unions and citizens’ rights groups also backs the “We The People” amendment. More than 600 local governments, passed supportive resolutions, too, the Duluth Labor World said.
The amendment is based on the principle that, notwithstanding the First Amendment’s free speech section, Congress has the power to regulate and control private financing of political campaigns. Furthermore, Citizens United and subsequent Supreme Court rulings have trashed that power, opening the way to a tsunami of unregulated sums from corporations and big givers.
“It’s time to establish once and for all that corporations are not people, money is not free speech, and our elections and public policy-making process are not for sale to the highest corporate bidders,” Nolan explained in introducing the proposal, House Joint Resolution 38.
“It’s time to take the molding and shaping of public policy out of corporate boardrooms, away from corporate lobbyists, and give it back to the American people. We must divert Congress’s focus away from the corporate interests of millionaires and billionaires and return it back to creating good-paying jobs and rebuilding our middle class,” Nolan added.
Nolan said corporate cash has so much influence over campaigns and elections that it produces “an enormous and destructive influence” on issues ranging from taxes to trade to worker rights. And it leads to “protection of Wall Street interests over American consumers.”
Along with Nolan and Jones, other co-sponsors include Representatives Mark Pocan, D-Wis., a member of the Painters’ union and Donald Norcross, D-N.J., a former Building Trades union leader. Sponsors also include Representatives Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum, both Minnesota Democrats; Earl Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio, both Democrats from Oregon; Louise Slaughter, Eliot Engel, and Paul Tonko, all Democrats from New York and John Conyers, D-Mich., the longest-serving member of the U.S. House.