Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed a constitutional amendment today that would overturn Citizens United and make it clear that corporations are not people.
SECTION 1. The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons and do not extend to for-profit corporations, limited liability companies, or other private entities established for business purposes or to promote business interests under the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state.
SECTION 2. Such corporate and other private entities established under law are subject to regulation by the people through the legislative process so long as such regulations are consistent with the powers of Congress and the States and do not limit the freedom of the press.
SECTION 3. Such corporate and other private entities shall be prohibited from making contributions or expenditures in any election of any candidate for public office or the vote upon any ballot measure submitted to the people.
SECTION 4. Congress and the States shall have the power to regulate and set limits on all election contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own spending, and to authorize the establishment of political committees to receive, spend, and publicly disclose the sources of those contributions and expenditures.
In a statement Sen. Sanders said, “There comes a time when an issue is so important that the only way to address it is by a constitutional amendment.” Sanders said of the effort to override the court decision that he labeled “a complete undermining of democracy.”
There is one interesting component to the Saving American Democracy Amendment that makes it different from all of the other proposed amendments and remedies designed to overturn Citizens United. Section 4 of the amendment strikes at the basis for every Supreme Court decision related to campaign finance. Sanders is also taking aim at the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision where the Supreme Court ruled spending money to influence elections was a form of protected free speech, and struck down limits on expenditures.
The amendment proposed by Sanders changes this by giving Congress the power to set expenditure limits on individuals, organizations, and candidates themselves. The Saving American Democracy Amendment would return the government back to the people by shutting off the money pipeline from the wealthy and special interests. It is also significant that the amendment limits the amount of money a candidate can give to their own campaign. This means that candidates would no longer have to be millionaires, or grovel at the feet of corporate America and the 1% in order to be able to run.
If this amendment was passed and ratified, anyone could run for office. The electoral process would once again be open to the candidates with the best ideas, not the biggest bank accounts. The Saving American Democracy Amendment would not only get rid of the corrupt Citizens United decision. It was also right a series of decades old wrongs that are based on the Buckley decision.
The odds of the amendment getting the support of the required two thirds majorities in the Senate and House, and ¾ of the states needed for ratification are slim, but that isn’t really the point. It is important to keep calling attention to this issue. Campaign finance reform is the only way for the American people to take back their elections and government.
Sen. Sanders is trying to wake America up with this amendment. The politicians aren’t going to fix it, the one percent isn’t going to kill their golden goose, and the Koch brothers own a majority on the Supreme Court, so it is up to the American people to take back the government that by constitutional design belongs to them.