Occupy the Constitution: An amendment to ban corporate election cash (and end corporate personhood)
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 United – Rep 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:
- Rep Deutch has set up a website for the OCCUPIED amendment… check it out for more information, and to sign a petition encouraging lawmakers to act.
- Read the full text of the OCCUPIED amendment.
- Read a backgrounder on the amendment.
More on Citizens United and campaign reform:
- How does the 1 percent fix the game? Convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff spills the beans on 60 Minutes
- Wall Street bought the political process on the cheap
- Why we occupy: The Story of Citizens United – Why Democracy Only Works When People Are In Charge
- Bill Moyers: How the 1970s backlash against the environmental movement morphed into today’s class war
- Bill Maher skewers right-wing idiots who hate Occupy Wall Street
- Calvin and Hobbes explain OWS
- Why are they lying about OWS – and why are they getting away with it?
- Why we occupy: David Brin explains that 1957 was NOT better than today (but we could still use a little more change)
- Why we Occupy: Robert Reich explains the link between inequality and the lousy economy