Our big chance to grab back US elections from Big Money

New US Senate legislation would put an end to big money and corporate domination of the US electoral process.  It proposes the 28th Amendment to the US Constitution that grants states and Congress the right to govern campaign finance.  It differs from amendment proposals that address corporate personhood to cut directly to the most important problem – corporate and billionaire interference with US elections.  Once that is handled, US citizens will be able to regain a modicum of control over their government and move on from there to address important issues.  It is only a start to creating a wiser democracy, but it is a necessary and truly vital beginning.

A very important piece of legislation has been put forward to recover some level of democracy in the United States.

Most of you know that corporate and big money campaign contributions have colonized and degraded the democratic process in the U.S. – a disaster accelerated by recent Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United and McCutcheon.

Senate Joint Resolution 19 – proposed by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) – establishes a 28th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which, as Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen, notes, “will give Congress and the states authority to regulate and limit the raising and spending of campaign funds, eliminating various barriers and obstacles imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court. It will overturn Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) and McCutcheon v. FEC, among other Supreme Court decisions that have facilitated the rise of a de facto oligarchy.” (See the details below.)

The colonization and degradation of America’s electoral and legislative functions by big money and corporate power is one of the primary obstacles to creating a wiser democracy in the U.S. Failure to create a wiser democracy is, in its turn, the primary obstacle to promoting wise policy to deal with every major issue facing the country and our planet. And that absence of wise public policy is currently devastating civilization and the Earth.

I believe, as I described in my earlier post “What is it about Random Selection?” that “Random selection is a perfect tool to address our most dangerous political problem – special interest manipulation.” However, it will take some time to help people understand what a remarkable tool it is, and to generate popular demand for governing institutions that use random selection to bypass such manipulation. In the meantime, getting control of campaign finance may be the most effective strategy for making the government responsive to We the People.

You can read the text of the amendment below. Then, if you feel this Amendment is as important as I do, you can
* sign the Public Citizen petition
* contact your representatives in Congress and/or your state government (since 38 states will also have to ratify the 28th Amendment)
* share your opinions with your local media or through blog posts and social media and/or
* organize people in your community or your personal, professional, or activist networks.

This is a high leverage opportunity and a real possibility. Most citizens – Liberals, Conservatives, Independents, and a full spectrum of people of nearly every other persuasion – are outraged or bitter about the dark money coup that is underway in the US. It may take years to finally get this Amendment through the hurdles it faces, but social conditions are so ripe that it just might take off like a rocket. We are each part of the fuel for that rocket.

Blessings on this Journey and all the rest seeking a healthy world…

Coheartedly,
Tom

PS: The importance of our actions on this is highlighted in a mailing from Public Citizen, which stated “The amendment now moves to the Senate Judiciary Committee. That’s scheduled for July 10. And then it goes to the full Senate, either later in July, or after the August congressional recess…. Pushers of plutocracy like the Koch Brothers — who together have more money than literally anyone else on the planet, and who just hired a top D.C. lobbying firm specifically to undermine efforts like ours that challenge their corruption of democracy — are going to fight the amendment tooth and nail.”

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The Text of the Proposed 28th Amendment

excerpted (with slight edits for clarity) from
https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-joint-resolution/19/text

To advance the fundamental principle of political equality for all, and to protect the integrity of the legislative and electoral processes, CONGRESS shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to FEDERAL elections, including through setting limits on —
(1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, Federal office;
and
(2) the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.

To advance the fundamental principle of political equality for all, and to protect the integrity of the legislative and electoral processes, each STATE shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to STATE elections, including through setting limits on —
(1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, State office;
and
(2) the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.

Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press.

Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

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June 18, 2014

Historic Amendment Moves Forward: One Step Closer to Restoring Democracy, Reversing Rise of Oligarchy

Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen

Note: The Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today approved an amended S.J. Res. 19, a constitutional amendment proposed by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) that aims to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and other U.S. Supreme Court decisions relating to campaign finance.

Here’s how the world will be different after final ratification of the constitutional amendment today approved by the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee:

The 28th Amendment will give Congress and the states authority to regulate and limit the raising and spending of campaign funds, eliminating various barriers and obstacles imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court. It will overturn Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) and McCutcheon v. FEC, among other Supreme Court decisions that have facilitated the rise of a de facto oligarchy. Specifically, Congress and the states will be able to:

  • Limit or forbid all corporate spending on elections.
  • Regulate campaign spending to advance the objectives of democratic self-government and political equality, rather than just to prevent criminal bribery.
  • Impose robust controls and strict limits on outside spending by super PACs and dark money conduits like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Koch Brothers organizations, potentially forbidding significant outside spending altogether.
  • Impose limits on the total amount any person can donate to candidates, parties and PACs.
  • Regulate the amount of spending by self-financed candidates.
  • Adopt limits on the total amounts candidates and their supporters may spend.
  • Adopt small-donor empowerment and public financing systems that provide extra funding to candidates who face heavily funded opponents who do not opt into the system.
  • Adopt mandatory public financing systems.

Following the public mobilization that will eventually obtain ratification of the 28th Amendment, we should expect Congress and the states to respond to that same public demand to restore our democracy – by enacting robust public financing systems, major curbs on outside spending and prohibitions on corporate spending in elections.

The amendment and subsequent legislation will not cure all of our nation’s ills, but it will help restore our democracy and remove key blocks to addressing the great problems facing the nation: putting people back to work, addressing deepening inequality, averting catastrophic climate change, fixing our schools, ensuring quality and affordable health care for all, and much more.

It shouldn’t need saying, but because of an intentional disinformation campaign by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other opponents of the amendment, it’s worth emphasizing what the amendment will not do: It will not “shred” or otherwise amend the First Amendment. It will not enable Congress and the states to adopt rules that discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity or viewpoint. It will not permit Congress to adopt a law banning campaign expenditures by just the Sierra Club, or just the National Rifle Association.

What the amendment will do is strengthen and restore the First Amendment, which has been weakened and distorted by the Supreme Court. The 28th Amendment will amplify the voices of the People, and make their speech meaningful. As Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer noted in his McCutcheon dissent, “Speech does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, political communication seeks to secure government action.” And, he explained, “Where enough money calls the tune, the general public will not be heard.”

With the 28th Amendment, we put an end to the plutocrats paying the piper, and enable the people to again call the tune.

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