Democratic Senators Michael Bennet (CO) and Tom Udall (NM) introduced a constitutional amendment yesterday that would effectively overturn the controversial Citizens United decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. Citizens United was the decision that said, in effect, “corporations (and unions) are people” and freed them to contribute huge amounts of money to political campaigns in virtual anonymity. The amendment doesn’t directly address the court’s finding but instead would add to the Constitution language that says Congress and the states can regulate and limit campaign contributions and expenditures.
The problem with campaign financing did not originate with the Citizens United case, however, but with the Buckley v Valeo decision in 1976. It set limits on campaign contributions but ruled that spending money to influence elections was a form of speech protected by the First Amendment.
Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) are co-sponsoring the proposed amendment.
Previously, a law proposed by the Democrats to mitigate the effects of the Citizens United decision was beaten down by a Republican filibuster, and Congress hasn’t changed much since then. It’s likely this effort also will be blocked by the G.O.P., but it’s good to know someone is trying to do something about the grossly misguided Supreme Court decision that sold out U.S. voters and their election system. We saw what happened in the last election — huge amounts of advertising and influence purchased by vaguely named organizations representing out-of-state (and, some said, international) interests. Our system was perverted and the wishes of the voters superseded in many cases by the wishes of mysterious, unidentified special interests.
Citizens United must not stand.