RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Gibson writes: "Remember in 2009, when the way our elections were financed was perfect, corporate power was reined in by Congress, and everything was A-OK and hunky-dory? Me neither."

(photo: TPM Muckraker)
(photo: TPM Muckraker)

Campaign Finance Reform - That'll Shut 'Em Up

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

11 July 14


emember in 2009, when the way our elections were financed was perfect, corporate power was reined in by Congress, and everything was A-OK and hunky-dory? Me neither.

Liberals have been rejoicing over the introduction and recent committee passage of SJR-19, a proposed constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United vs. FEC and McCutcheon vs. FEC decisions. In essence, the amendment says states have the power to regulate campaign spending, and Congress has the power to regulate outside spending in elections. Sounds good, right? Wrong.

Senator Tom Udall’s (D-NM) proposed constitutional amendment is an election-year bone thrown at the masses, who are in a populist rage over the corruption of our government by corporate power and big moneyed interests. In introducing this amendment and passing it in committee, DC politicians are saying that they hear us, understand we’re upset, and are hoping that we’ll be satisfied with a half-measure that any corporate lawyer worth his salt can find his way around.

Udall and the 40-plus Democrats who have co-sponsored the legislation are aiming to placate us with an amendment that takes us back to 2009. Even before Citizens United emerged and significantly changed the financing of campaigns, McCain-Feingold, the last significant campaign finance reform bill, which was already riddled with loopholes, had been mostly gutted by the Bush administration’s chief justice of the Supreme Court in 2007. Celebrating SJR-19 as the be-all, end-all constitutional amendment that will make our government accountable to the people again is laughable. It’s akin to the captain of the Titanic applying chewed-up bubble gum on the hole in the ship and calling it good.

So how do we fix the gushing head-wound that is our democracy? Udall has it half-right with a constitutional amendment, but his doesn’t go nearly far enough. Instead, we need a constitutional amendment that explicitly defines human beings as people, and corporations as artificial entities not deserving of constitutional rights. And it needs to state that money is not political speech. Any amendment that doesn’t make these two points is a waste of an amendment. You only get one shot with a constitutional amendment, so if you’re going to do it, go all the way or don’t do it at all.

A constitutional amendment abolishing constitutional rights for corporations would overturn not only Citizens United vs. FEC, but also Buckley vs. Valeo and Union Pacific Railroad vs. Santa Clara County, which originally established the concept of corporate personhood. It would also, by default, abolish all subsequent Supreme Court cases based on the constitutional rights of corporations, like Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby, for instance. And abolishing the concept of money as political speech would strip outside interests of the ability to spend unlimited amounts of money on despicable TV ads that perpetuate falsehoods about candidates. Not only would we have clean elections, but we would finally be able to say that fictitious entities like corporations no longer have the right to walk all over people in the name of profit. Luckily, there’s already wide grassroots support for such an amendment. Through Move to Amend’s efforts, 478 local, county, and state government entities have passed resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood and money as speech. State legislatures in Delaware, Illinois, and Vermont have all called for such an amendment. Voters in Montana approved a statewide ballot initiative to do the same. The Minnesota and West Virginia Senates both passed resolutions. Resolutions are currently in progress at the Minnesota and Arizona House, the California Senate, and in both the House and Senate in Texas. The people aren’t waiting on Cong! ress to do what needs to be done.

Congress should take its lead from the people, who have already made it very clear in both red and blue states that a constitutional amendment is needed, and that campaign finance reform is only scratching the surface. Such an amendment has already been introduced in Congress by Representative Rick Nolan (DFL-Minn.) in February of 2013. Udall and his co-sponsors should take their cues from HJR-29, or the “We the People Amendment,” if they’re serious about representing the people’s interests. Anything else is an election-year bone not to be taken seriously.

Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary "We're Not Broke," which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+13 # Buddha 2014-07-11 15:04
We don't need a Constitutional Amendment, we need another Constitutional Convention.
+19 # Inspired Citizen 2014-07-12 06:04
What the Framers established in Article V was the possibility of an Amendment Convention. Wolf PAC may be correct with the analysis that this corporate Congress will not pass the We the People Amendment, but Move to Amend is still in the movement building stage.

If Congress refuses to support the We the People Amendment in 2-3 election cycles, then MTA will likely support an amendment convention.

What comes out of that could be a disaster for the U.S. At least all amendments would have to be ratified one at a time by 38 states, but that's no guarantee that bad amendments will not become part of our Constitution. I'm thinking of the right-wing Balanced Budget Amendment which proposes to increase the threshold for tax increases to 2/3rd support in Congress. That amendment would destroy the welfare state, and that is what the reactionaries have in mind with that amendment.
+1 # wrknight 2014-07-12 07:52
The purpose of the Convention is to amend the Constitution. If we don't need an amendment, why do we need a Convention?
0 # DaveHOz 2014-07-12 19:41
It sounds to me like what Buddha means by "Constitutional Convention" is throw out the whole thing and start over... i.e. write a whole new constitution for the USA...
+4 # arquebus 2014-07-12 22:50
Be careful what you ask for. The purpose for the framers to get together 200 years ago was to amend the articles of Confederation.. .instead the wrote an entirely new constitution. A new constitution "MIGHT" be a good thing, but it could also be a disaster. Keep in mind that the majority of delegates to such a convention could be Tea Party types.
+10 # teachnet 2014-07-11 16:41
Thank you, Buddha! I was about to write, "Before we can think about passing an amendment, we'd need to actually still have a constitution."

Gibson's correct: We can't fix a leak on the Titanic with chewing gum. We can't fix the Titanic, either. Why would we want to, anyway? (Or is your "ticket" not in steerage?)

We can do, and have done, better. We could create for real what we've all thought we already had, but actually didn't.
+1 # wrknight 2014-07-12 07:56
+19 # wrknight 2014-07-12 08:22
People need to understand that because the Constitution addresses the rights of the people but not the rights of corporations, the Supreme Court has taken the liberty of extending those Constitutional rights to corporations. This revision of the Constitution is clearly a violation of the separation of powers written into the Constitution that says that only the Congress can make laws and only the Congress or a Constitutional Convention with approval of 3/4 of state legislatures can revise the Constitution.

Unfortunately, the only way that the Congress or the States can overturn Supreme Court decisions is to revise the Constitution. Therefore an amendment is required. In order to prevent the Supreme Court from further awarding Constitutional Rights to Corporations, the amendment must specifically state that the Constitution applies to citizens only, that corporations are not citizens and rights granted to citizens are not granted to corporations. This is fairly well stated in HJR 29, the "We the People" amendment.
+5 # WestWinds 2014-07-12 01:00

--- Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO)

--- Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)

S.J.Res.19 - A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections.113th Congress (2013-2014)
Joint Resolution
Sponsor: Sen. Udall, Tom [D-NM] (Introduced 06/18/2013)
Committees: Senate - Judiciary
Latest Action: 07/10/2014 Committee on the Judiciary. Ordered to be reported without amendment favorably.
+17 # Inspired Citizen 2014-07-12 05:27
"Through Move to Amend’s efforts, 478 local, county, and state government entities have passed resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood and money as speech. State legislatures in Delaware, Illinois, and Vermont have all called for such an amendment."

In NY, we are four signatures on a letter to Congress in the Senate from making NY the 17th state calling for such an amendment. Not one Republican Senator will sign it. In the Assembly, two have and a majority have signed it.

Another statistic that Carl didn't point to is MTA has gotten this issue on the ballot 200 times around the country. This includes municipalities in TX and UT. This also includes the conservative suburb of W. Allis in WI AND Scott Walker's hometown which has NOT voted Dem for president in 40 years.

Not once has this ballot initiative failed to pass. A majority of Republicans, Independents and Dems support this amendment.

MTA national field organizer, David Cobb, was told by congressional staffers that SJR 19 is just a mechanism to embarrass Republicans and help win elections this year. It has ZERO chance of passing, but the Dems have succeeded in making what was a cross-partisan issue into a partisan issue. Only time will tell how much damage the Dems have caused our movement by pushing this amendment before we have built up unstoppable support for HJR-29, the We the People Amendment.

An amendment convention is a measure of last resort.
+20 # Inspired Citizen 2014-07-12 05:56
Some readers might remember Obama's first campaign speech in 2012 when he said, "corporations aren't people. People are people." Sounded good, right?

The White House and the Democratic leadership does NOT now support the abolition of corporate constitutional rights. They know who, or what, butters their bread (pays for their elections).

In order to end the corporate-state the U.S. has become and take this country back, the movement to amend, either through or around Congress, must become unstoppable and large enough that it cannot possibly be ignored. Congress will not take its lead from the people until that happens, until millions, not just thousands, are plugged in and active in this movement.

Please sign the petition today:

For counter-argumen ts to the nay-sayers on left and the right, amendment analysis, news and movement analysis, check out The Amendment Gazette.

Abolishing corporate personhood and the doctrine that money is speech are the roots of American plutocracy and the corporate-state . We will win this fight to restore the First Amendment to its original intent, or we should start making funeral arrangements for our Republic and formally announce the birth of American Corporate Empire. The stakes are that high.
+13 # wrknight 2014-07-12 08:45
I would go one step further and restrict all campaign spending for any politician to those citizens who will be represented by the office sought by the politician. I.e., everyone can donate to presidential elections; only people in any given state can donate to the state's senators and governor; only people in the congressional district can donate to the district's representative; etc. And corporations can't donate at all.

More than anything, I resent anyone from another state or country meddling in my elections and I suspect I am not alone in that feeling that way.
+6 # Inspired Citizen 2014-07-12 13:25
These are details that would FOLLOW an amendment. First we have to server the equivalence between money and speech. Only then will comprehensive campaign finance reform be possible.

I agree; outside spending can and should be outlawed once CFR is before 15-20 years. First an amendment, then CFR.
+10 # lfeuille 2014-07-12 17:04
I would go even further and establish public funding for all federal elections. No campaign contributions period. This would require explicitly stating that money is not speech.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.