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Representative Donna Edwards of Maryland, joined by ranking Judiciary Committee member Rep. John Conyers, Jr. and fifteen co-sponsors, has introduced a Constitutional Amendment resolution that would overturn Citizens United v. FEC. This 28th Amendment would allow the American people once again to enact laws to control corporate spending in elections and to have a shot at a functioning democracy of equal citizens.

You may ask, “what’s new?” After all, Congresswoman Edwards led with the Constitutional Amendment response to Citizens United soon after the case was decided in January 2010.

Here’s what’s new: It is now clear that the case for a Constitutional amendment is the realistic, the increasingly mainstream, response to the fiasco that is Citizens United and the fabrication of Constitutional rights for corporate entities.

For many months, the vast majority of Americans, regardless of political party, have supported a Constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s creation of corporate “rights.” More than a million people have signed petitions demanding the 28th Amendment.  Free Speech for People and its allies are working together to organize and move resolutions forward across the country.

Now, even Amendment skeptics are capitulating, as our democracy and republican government of the people race faster off the cliff.

The new Edwards resolution reflects this change. As before, we at Free Speech for People helped. This time, however, we were joined by the most distinguished and careful of Constitutional scholars, Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe.

Tribe has joined a growing number of leading law professors and lawyers who say a Constitutional amendment is necessary, and who are helping Free Speech for People to advance the Constitutional Amendment resolution.  And even the most “moderate” of Senators, such as Montana’s Max Baucus, are moving forward with Constitutional amendment resolutions.

This is a sea change. Soon after the nihilistic majority in Citizens United  blew up the two-century old American consensus that corporations were useful in the economic sphere but posed grave dangers in the political sphere, many believed that a Constitutional amendment was “extreme” or “impractical” or “unrealistic.” We would have disclosure. We would have shareholder approval. We could still keep foreign money out of our elections.  Congress did nothing. We have none of those safeguards.

Professor Tribe did not support a Constitutional amendment a year ago. He believed that legislative avenues of reform were available. To be clear, Tribe was far from cavalier about the consequences of Citizens United. Indeed, in testimony to Congress, he warned of the grave danger of a “New Politico-Corporate Order.” Still, he urged that Congress work on “meaningful avenues of legislative relief short of a Constitutional amendment.”

It turns out that it already was too late. A government responsive to the American people was already dying.

The Senate— publicly and without shame —voted down even the limited Disclose Act. This defeated bill would have taken a modest step toward requiring some disclosure of the source of corporate money in elections. In killing disclosure, Congress showed that even the most extreme anti-human and pro-corporate positions that everyone had assumed no politician could possibly support - - secret corporate money in elections, for example - – now were perfectly logical positions for a politician. Why not, when corporate front groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove's “American Crossroads” had hundreds of millions to put to use on behalf of (or more intimidating, against) politicians when it came time to face the voters?

So no matter whether someone comes to the Constitutional Amendment fight early or late, scholars such as Professor Tribe and leaders such as Donna Edwards, Max Baucus and many others , deserve not only credit for their clear-eyed realism - - they deserve your support and help (Including, I might add, Free Speech for People).

OK, you might say, even if we agree that we need the 28th Constitutional Amendment, that doesn’t address the “unrealistic” problem.

That’s true only if one believes that we Americans are a lot more timid, worse as a people, than before; weaker than those who won the 27 Amendments that made our democracy of equal people; weaker than those who passed and ratified Constitutional amendments in every decade in the 20th Century after 1913, with the exception of the 1940s and the 1980s.

To the charge of “unrealistic,” more and more Americans are saying “speak for yourself; I’m working for the People’s Rights Amendment.”

I suppose we’ll always have skeptics but with each passing month, it is becoming clear that the only “unrealistic” and naïve view is that our American republic will get along without a 28th Amendment to check control of our government by the largest and most international corporations in history.


Do you support a Constitutional Amendment to reverse Citizens United and Corporate Rights

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Comment Preferences

  •  Starts by taking the first step (8+ / 0-)

    but it will be a long and arduous process as supporters of the ERA can attest

    You can safely assume you have created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. Anne Lamott

    by zooecium on Wed Oct 05, 2011 at 08:51:48 AM PDT

    •  A quicker fix? (5+ / 0-)

      I don't understand why laws can't be enacted that would remove personal liability protections for corporations that don't abide by a specified set of restrictions on political contributions.  After all, corporations are artificial entities whose benefits are defined by law.  Why not use those benefits as an incentive to encourage behavior in a way similar to tax incentives?  Am I missing something?

      •  Can't get passed (3+ / 0-)

        That seems to be diarist's take on it - legislation will get voted down by pols who have in interest in maintaining the system as it now is.

        from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

        by Catte Nappe on Wed Oct 05, 2011 at 10:25:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Laws such as those would probably (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lmnop, CoyoteMarti, brooklyns finest

        be struck down as violations on free speech on the same basis as Citizens United . . .

        •  What do you base that on? (0+ / 0-)

          I would argue that there's no inherent right to personal liability protection in a public structure but that privilege can be granted to those willing to accept certain other restrictions.  However, I'm not a lawyer.

          •  Well not to get all law professor-y on you . . . (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            The Court has taken the position that the same free speech rights that apply to individuals also apply to corporations. So if the law in question would not be valid as it relates to an individual then it won't be valid just because it only applies to corporations. Obviously a lot of people disagree with their conclusion on that, but if individuals are allowed to take out ads in support or in opposition to a particular candidate (and that's what we're talking about here, not campaign contributions), any restriction on the right of corporations to do the same thing will be struck down under Citizens United.

            •  I get that (0+ / 0-)

              But with the argument I stated above, corporations would have the same speech rights as individuals unless they voluntarily abdicated them in exchange for personal liability protections.  Don't we do stuff like that all the time?

              •  The default is that corporations have (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                liability protections. That's the basic premise of a corporation, that if you start a business and it fails, you as the owner won't lose your house along with it. People wouldn't take 1% of the risks that the do everyday were it otherwise.

                The basic principle that you have to get around is that under Citizens United you probably cannot strip corporations of a right, or grant them a special one, because of their political speech. That would be a government imposition of a limitation on free speech in violation of the First Amendment.

                •  Why is that a default? (0+ / 0-)

                  Where is it codified that there is some sort of inherent protection from personal liability intrinsic to a business structure?  Partnerships don't get that kind of protection.

                  Over-the-air TV and radio networks have severe speech restrictions (even more in the days of the Fairness Doctrine) simply because they choose to broadcast over public airwaves.  I can't think of a perfect analogy, but this is an example of businesses voluntarily relinquishing speech rights in exchange for a public commodity.

                  Are you softening your position with "probably?"

                  •  I don't profess to have a crystal ball into (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    the minds of the SCOTUS or more particularly Justice Kennedy (the swing vote). Broadcasters don't give up their free speech rights in order to broadcast over the airwaves. They are just restricted in terms of what they can broadcast. As corporations they are free to do anything else, the same as any other corporation. And the restrictions on their right to broadcast what they want is pretty limited too, as you note, post demise of the Fairness Doctrine.

                    Yes, partnerships don't get the same protections as corporations. That's why corporations exist. Yes, it's written into the corporate laws of every state that corporations intrinsically protect their owners from personal liability. We could have a debate outside of the context of free speech as to whether or to what extent corporations should protect their owners from personal liability, but that is a different question than allowing those who engage (or fail to engage) in speech that we do or don't like get one kind of protection, and those who don't get another.

                    As far as why corporations should provide protection from personal liability, I'd invite you to consider for a moment a world in which if you wished to start or business, or invest in one, or even buy a stock, that you could lose everything you have, and work for the rest of your life to pay back a debt incurred, or be forced into bankruptcy. What do you think would happen?

                    •  Still not sure (0+ / 0-)

                      Over-the-air broadcasters have their broadcast rights restricted.  Meanwhile, other businesses engaged in exactly the same activity have full broadcast rights simply because they utilize cable or satellite.  That seems to me like a precedent for some kinds of restrictions of fundamental rights based on voluntary behavior.

                      Yes, it's written into the corporate laws of every state that corporations intrinsically protect their owners from personal liability.

                      Exactly.  They are laws, not intrinsic rights.

                      As far as why corporations should provide protection from personal liability, I'd invite you to consider for a moment a world in which if you wished to start or business, or invest in one, or even buy a stock, that you could lose everything you have, and work for the rest of your life to pay back a debt incurred, or be forced into bankruptcy. What do you think would happen?

                      That's precisely why liability protection is the right carrot.  Businesses whose core purpose is to engage in basic economic activity can do so as they have done for centuries.  Those whose core purpose is to influence political thought by funding campaigns without restriction will run the risk that they might be personally liable for defamatory and libelous speech.

                      BTW, thanks for engaging me on this!

                      •  Likewise re the engagement! (0+ / 0-)

                        I'm not sure that we're talking about corporations whose "core purpose is to influence political thought by funding campaigns". That doesn't describe Exxon or Goldman Sachs. Their core purpose is to make money, the same as any other corporation. They also engage in the political process in order to enhance their ability to make money.

                        If I can step back a bit to explain where I'm coming from. I think it's a mistake to think that "corporations" are the issue, anymore than "government" is the issue. The issue is the relationship between the two, and most particularly the fact that certain large corporations exercise an inordinate influence on government to their own private benefit and to the detriment of the wider society.

                        Apple is actually the largest corporation on Earth right now by market value, and I don't hear very many people here at Daily Kos, or anywhere else for that matter, complaining about the role that Apple plays in society. The reason: Apple isn't perceived as buying favors from government in order to pursue their business. Their business for the most part stands on its own. I'm not saying that to put them on a pedestal or anything; there may in fact be instances that I'm unaware of where they've exerted a negative influence through government for their own benefit, and there are probably plenty of other corporations that are similarly sort of "neutral" from a public policy standpoint. But they are probably the most prominent example to prove the point that to the extent that corporations are separated from public policy making, and haven't rigged the rules of the game to their own benefit, we don't really have a big problem with them, no matter how big or profitable they might be.

                        On the other hand, the issues that we have with the Koch brothers are only in small part due to their seeking out special favors for Koch Industries as a particular corporation (it could be privately held and it would change nothing). The bigger issue is that they as wealthy individuals are influencing the process through their money in ways that the rest of us could not dream of.

                        So, if the locus of the problem is not "corporations", because corporations that don't influence government are not really the problem, and wealthy individuals that do influence the government are, and the problem is not really either in so far as either doesn't rig the rules of the game to their own benefit and to the detriment of everyone else, then I would suggest that the real issue is the integrity of the public policymaking process, and whether it is being done in the public interest, or in the private interests of certain well-connected individuals and corporations. And I think there are better and more direct ways of addressing that than restricting the speech of corporations as opposed to individuals.

  •  Something needs to be done (8+ / 0-)

    I've been reading article after article (or sometimes just the headlines) of 17 million raised here and 240 million raised there- all in PACS- all determined to defeat President Obama and all that he stands for.

    Where is this money coming from?

    This is a question I now ask anyone who would even consider voting Republican today.

    It's not your "grand old party' anymore- but most of you already knew that.  It's become 'greed over people', and the politicians that get elected are owned by those who can afford 17 million to fix an election.  They will vote on laws that will only benefit the rich- kill programs that help the poor.

    The money needs to be taken out of politics and our government must be returned to who our Founding Fathers originally intended.

    The people.

    Growing old is inevitable...Growing up is purely optional

    by grannycarol on Wed Oct 05, 2011 at 08:52:35 AM PDT

    •  I agree, as do many at OWS (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      grannycarol, WheninRome

      I can so no way that a PAC can be anything but bribery, plain and simple.  When politicians have PACs that they use to spread money around to their buddies, that is simply a politician bribing other politicians to follow his political whim.  Public funding of campaigns is the only way to go.  Politicians should not get rich being a servant of the people.   Rick Perry was a straight middle class worker until he ran for a political position, now he is rich, getting enriched by political favors for votes, in some cases real estate deals where he had influence on enriching himself by voting for various laws.  That is criminal.  He is not alone.  Few politicians are ethical.  You could say it isn't their fault, but I think it is their collective fault.  But the system requires lots of money to get into office and more to stay in office.  Luckily for them, Citizens United and PACs have given them the tools (rules, laws, cover) to run their campaigns and get rich.  That is criminal.  Until we treat this behavior as criminal, we will not get our voice back.  This amendment is a small start, but I'd like an amendment that defines bribery.  The Constitution talks about bribery, but we've allowed it to go way too far.  

      "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength", George Orwell, "1984" -7.63 -5.95

      by dangoch on Wed Oct 05, 2011 at 09:08:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  grannyc - "all in PACs"? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      grannycarol, Catte Nappe

      It is difficult to raise large amounts of money in PACs because there are limits on the amounts that can be given to PACs in each elections cycle and corporations cannot contribute to them. It is more likely that you have been reading about some of the other organizational structures that have become popular post CU that don't have limits and where corporations can contribute.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Wed Oct 05, 2011 at 09:11:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Chump change when you consider that (0+ / 0-)

      that President Obama is planning to raise $1 billion for his reelection campaign . . .

  •  Anything that actually benefits the public is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    characterized as extreme, impractical and/or unrealistic, to use your words.

    These are the words that are commonly applied to Single-Payer, despite the contrary evidence on display one inch over our northern border.

    I'm sure that was the same language deployed by those who didn't believe the American colonies should split from England.

    That is also always the language used by those who counsel us to always be grateful for the crumbs while the wealthy and connected gobble the whole loaf and put away extras in their freezers.

    I'm all for getting rid of Citizens United no matter how it's done. If by amendment, fine.

    I personally thought the easiest way to get rid of it was by impeaching the Justices that voted for it, since with their vote they knowingly turned over potential control of the country to foreign governments and nationals who are not precluded in any way from using their corporate dollars to sway American elections and policy.

    That argument was made in the presentation before the court and they didn't care.

    I actually believe that rises to the technical definition of treason. I'm not looking for the stiffer remedies for treason - I would be happy with  removal from office, and loss of all pension and benefits and a review of other tainted decisions (like Kelo) from the new SCOTUS. I would also use the impeachment to remove the idea that once appointed judges serve for life. I agree they should be free from the pressure of swings in the electorate, but it seems to me that a term of twenty years should be sufficent for anyone.

    •  PL - impeachment the easiest way? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shakludanto, Calamity Jean

      Given that we have never impeached and remove a justice of the SCOTUS in the history of the US I wonder why you thought it would be "the easiest way". Also given that it would take a majority vote in the House and 2/3rds in the Senate there was never any thought in Congress about impeachment. Plus many lawyers and constitutinal scholars, including our own Adam B, thought the majority was right on the law in Citizens United. Given all of that how could you possibly think that "impeachment would be the easiest way"?

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Wed Oct 05, 2011 at 09:16:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I didn't think any way would be "easy" (0+ / 0-)

        Legislation to curtail the corporate excesses of Citizens United will probably never happen since the Congress are precisely the people who benefit from those excesses.

        Will enough citizens get exercised enough about Citizens United to successfully pass an amendment? It's possible, but I do look to the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment, a no-brainer if there ever was one, as discouraging.

        The fact that no Supreme Court Justice has never been impeached doesn't mean that there haven't been and won't be adequate grounds for doing so.

        But, we no longer have the driving forces that drove Watergate - an engaged populace that actually cared about what was going on,  independent journalists who went wherever the story took them, and a Congress that was still capable of acting and performing the duties they swore an oath to perform. We may be regaining the first of those  three factors but we have just the remnants and tatters of the last two.

        So, I think it's a long shot, either way.

        As to legal scholars - there will always be a time when some rights bump up against other rights. Here we have the right of citizens to an untainted election process and the integrity of their country remaining an independent entity bumping up against the free speech (dollars) rights of corporations. I'm no scholar, but to me
        that's not even a close call.

  •  This is a movement I can get behind. (5+ / 0-)

    The irony is that corporate spending and exercise of corporate "free speech"  will almost guarantee such an Amendment will nto be enacted.  Absent a very serious groundswell of public support, that is.

    Interestingly, Ken Burns' series "Prohibition" is playing on PBS now (very much worth watching; an excellent historical piece).  One of the reasons that the "drys" were successful in getting the Amendment passed in Congress, and in the statehouses, was that they had real electoral muscle - they were able to defeat "wets" in elections.  Not just a few elections, either, but dozens of them.  The "drys" had a singlemindedness of purpose that enabled Prohibition to pass and be enacted.

    The People's Rights Amendment will need a similar singlemindedness, and show of electoral muscle.  We need to make certain that a lot of representatives and senators, at the national and local levels, support the Amendment--or at least fear not supporting it.

    We reach for the stars with shaking hands in bare-knuckle times.

    by TheOrchid on Wed Oct 05, 2011 at 09:10:07 AM PDT

  •  As a PS... (4+ / 0-)

    ...something I find a bit frustrating about this site from time to time is that really important stuff like this is roundly ignored (unless it's diaried by a "name" on the site, of course), while trivial stuff, like what Elizabeth Warren saiod about Scott Brown, gets recced up.

    We reach for the stars with shaking hands in bare-knuckle times.

    by TheOrchid on Wed Oct 05, 2011 at 09:11:54 AM PDT

  •  Hot damn (4+ / 0-)

    I'll sign that. Let that go up for vote. We'll discover very quickly who's there for the people and who's there for the continental breakfast.

    Many Americans fear that universal health care would destroy their way of life. In that it would get them the anti-psychotic meds they need, I agree.

    by ThothXXI on Wed Oct 05, 2011 at 09:13:51 AM PDT

  •  Jeff - I agree (4+ / 0-)

    A Constitutional Amendment is the only way to change CU.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Wed Oct 05, 2011 at 09:17:36 AM PDT

  •  People are people (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TDreamer, Calamity Jean

    and corporations aren't.

    I know which side I am on: the one that does the math.

    by Grassroots Mom on Wed Oct 05, 2011 at 09:19:08 AM PDT

  •  It'll be interesting to see a vote. (0+ / 0-)

    That being said, I don't support any amendment which abridges the First, including this one.

  •  What is the specific content of the amendment? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wayoutinthestix, Calamity Jean

    It doesn't seem to be spelled out in your diary.

    from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

    by Catte Nappe on Wed Oct 05, 2011 at 10:50:22 AM PDT

  •  Where's the text? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, Calamity Jean

    Do you have a link to the language of the proposed amendment?

  •  Dylan Ratigan's "Get Money out of Politics" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Get Money out of Politics

    Dylan Ratigan started this last week.  It's worth the time to read and sign, if you so desire.

    I did.

    The Dude abides, now get off my lawn.

    by Boris49 on Wed Oct 05, 2011 at 11:18:07 AM PDT

  •  Can you imagine (0+ / 0-)

    the amount of Citizens United money that would be arrayed against an Ammendment to repeal Citizens United?

    Would dwarf this presidential election spending.  I'm not going to hold my breath.

    It seems to me that there are more immediate and winnable causes to put time, enegry, and money into than this.  And, there will always be early casualties in a long war of attrition like this will be.  So, who wants to hit the beach first??

    •  We can work on the short term and (0+ / 0-)

      the long term issues at the same time. If fact that's the only way long term becomes short-term and actionable. That's why I am so grateful for the organizations that dedicate themselves 100% to these issues to get them moving, while I may be mostly focused on other things. You would be amazed at how far they've already brought this in a relatively short time. And if it doesn't work this time we will keep at it. It may take years but that's true if we start now or later. My vote is for NOW.

      The winner of every Republican debate is Barack Obama. - plf515, DKos 2011

      by CoyoteMarti on Wed Oct 05, 2011 at 12:37:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You know . . . (0+ / 0-)

    . . . in trying to come up with that One Demand that AdBusters originally was asking for when they suggested the Occupy Wall Street protest, I've been thinking about something that directly addressed the growing wealth disparity we see in our country.

    But maybe that is only because that is what I've personally been focusing on for the last coupla years.  Could just be a result of my own myopia.

    I've been aware, of course, of the rampant dangers let loose by the Court's ever-increasing willingness to consider corporations "people."  Essentially, the Court is extending all the legal rights and protections afforded natural people to the legal fictions that are corporations but -- for practical purposes -- it is impossible to subject these corporate citizens to the same responsibilities that natural citizens must shoulder.

    I've seen a lot of the Occupy sites suggesting that getting rid of corporate personhood might be one big step to take in getting us back to a more realistic, equitable society.  If the movement has picked up the kind of momentum you describe here, maybe that really is the single big thing for which OWS should eventually push.

    If so, count me in.

    Politics is the neverending story we tell ourselves about who we are as a people.

    by swellsman on Wed Oct 05, 2011 at 12:28:30 PM PDT

  •  Thank you Donna Edwards (0+ / 0-)

    I asked my Representative yesterday to co-sponsor this important bill.  The corporations won't take this sitting down, so we are going to have to put sustained pressure on our Congresspeople to keep this moving forward.

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