Occupy the Constitution: An amendment to ban corporate election cash (and end corporate personhood)

  • Published on November 29th, 2011

the constitution vs citizens united

One of the unified themes that has emerged from the very disunified Occupy Wall Street movement: Preventing corporate cash from buying elections (and politicians).

Now, Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL)  has introduced a Constitutional Amendment to do just that. Un-officially called the Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy (OCCUPIED) Amendment, it would

  • Overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case
  • End “Corporate personhood”
  • Re-enable Congress and the states to put reasonable regulations on campaign spending and donations
  • Put an end to the tsunami of cash that is drowning our democracy.

“No matter how long protesters camp out across America, big banks will continue to pour money into shadow groups promoting candidates more likely to slash Medicaid for poor children than help families facing  foreclosure,” says Deutch. “No matter how strongly Ohio families fight for basic fairness for workers, the Koch Brothers will continue to pour millions into campaigns aimed at protecting the wealthiest 1%. No matter how fed up seniors in South Florida are with an agenda that puts oil subsidies ahead of Social Security and Medicare, corporations will continue to fund massive publicity campaigns and malicious attack ads against the public interest.

“…Americans of all stripes agree that for far too long, corporations have occupied Washington and drowned out the voices of the people. I introduced the OCCUPIED Amendment because the days of corporate control of our democracy. It is time to return the nation’s capital and our democracy to the people.”

In an interview with the Washington Post, Deutch added, “The reason that I am hopeful that this proposal will start to move forward is because the American people don’t want to rely upon Congress to pass a law that may just help at the margins. What they want is to return government back to the people, so that corporations don’t dictate the outcome of elections. I believe there will be a groundswell of support that moves us forward in a way that respects the American people again.

This isn’t the first Amendement introduced to deal with the mess created by Citizens UnitedRep Jim McGovern (D-MA) has introduced one, as has Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), and the team of Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Rep. Betty Sutton (D-OH) , But Deutch’s is the most far-reaching. He points out that his is the only proposal so far that:

  • Makes clear that free speech and other constitutionally protected rights are those of natural persons and not corporations or entities formed to promote their business interests.
  • Reaffirms that corporations are formed under the laws of Congress and the States and are thus subject to laws enacted to protect the environment, ensure public health, and other safeguards for the people.
  • Overturns Citizens United by ending corporations’ ability to spend unlimited amounts of their general treasury funds in elections.
  • Sets the stage for real campaign finance reform by reasserting the authority of Congress to regulate all election contributions and expenditures, including those of individuals and groups funneling money anonymously to influence elections.

“The problems caused by the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizen’s United must be addressed – and we’re delighted to see Representative Deutch offer a comprehensive solution to stop the flood of corporate money in our electoral system,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of Policy and Programs for People for the American Way. “Our democracy belongs to all of the people, not just the wealthy, and not to large and powerful corporate interests. Amending the constitution is the best tool we have to protect that democracy for the American people.  Rep. Deutch’s amendment is a positive step toward ensuring that our elected officials remain accountable to the people they are in office to serve.”

“Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office … the financial resources, legal structure, and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process. Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races.” — Justice John Paul Stevens in his dissent to Citizens United

What you can do: 

More on Citizens United and campaign reform:

More on Occupy Wall Street:

About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.
  • This representative is late! This has already been done with MOVE TO AMEND.
    http://www.movetoamend.org
    Please see the site and sign the petition.
    Today LOS ANGELES just made this into law.

  • Larry Linn

    The Preamble of the Constitution states, “We the people…”, not “We the corporations”! However, it has sadly become a defacto “We the corporations in order to increase profitability without concern for the rights of the citizens”.

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  • Tim Everton

    Dear Congressman Deutch,
    I believe that this is a good effort, but allowing “not-for-profit” corporations, PACS, etc. to still shovel money into campaigns is not a viable solution. It IS a step in the right direction but, unless those entities mentioned above are included, there will always be a way to get untoward money to candidates.

  • Fred Schwacke

    There are many ways to defeat the attack by Corporate America on our freedoms; the best is to make sure corporations not enjoy the rights of “natural people”; it is the key which all of the others. This is not a Conservative, Liberal, or Independent question; it is about preserving the America our forefathers fought so hard to create, and the legacy we have been entrusted to pass on to our kids.

    To effect change we have to identify the core issue and must all focus on it. The unbelievable power and influence of big corporations, and the massive abuses some create is that core. If we can rein in this power base and return control of our government to “real people”, rather than the “power of the dollar”, everything else we need in order to regain the American dream becomes possible, and it all begins by passing a Constitutional Amendment that simply says “Corporations are not People”.

    So I signed a petition to The United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate and President Barack Obama, which says:

    “It is my belief that Corporations are not People, and that a Constitutional Amendment making that simple statement should be enacted.”

    If you agree, will you step up and help by signing the petition and forwarding it to like-minded friends? Please click here to add your name:
    http://signon.org/sign/corporations-are-not-3?source=s.fwd&r_by=166820

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