Skip to main content

2010 was the first election in which we witnessed the true effect of the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. On the night before the election, Congresswoman Donna Edwards said, "You can hear it on the radio ads and you can see it on the television, the independent spending that's going on there that's completely anonymous and, I think, it's been very destructive."

To that end, she introduced this week's episode, H. J. Res 78, an amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision.

90 Second Summaries: Season 2, Episode 24
H. J. Res. 78: Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United
Introduced 9/12/2011
Sponsor: Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD4). Key cosponsor: Rep. John Conyers (D-MI14)
Click here to download this summary (pdf)


Cosponsors: 15 (15 Democrats, 0 Republicans). Full list at http://thomas.loc.gov/...

Status: Referred to Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution. Virtually no chance of moving or even receiving a hearing.

Senate Companion: None. Max Baucus (D-MT) announced plans in January to introduce such an amendment, but never did so.

Purpose: In January 2010, the United States Supreme Court struck down the longstanding ban on direct political spending by corporations as unconstitutional. The now-infamous Citizens United v. FEC decision unleashed a torrent of corporate spending in the 2010 election cycle, heavily tilted towards Republicans and much of it anonymous, confirming the worst fears of the decision's detractors.

In response, Democrats have proposed various measures to counteract the antidemocratic effects of unlimited and undisclosed corporate spending. While leadership chose to advance a more modest response and demand transparency through the DISCLOSE Act, some favored a constitutional amendment to repeal the decision entirely. The latter approach was captured in Rep. Donna Edwards' proposal, reintroduced in the 112th Congress as H.J. Res. 78.

Summary: H. J. Res. 78, which would become the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution if enacted, overturns Citizens United in the following manner:

• Clarifies the authority of Congress to regulate and restrict the political activity of corporations of any sort, including but not limited to contributions in support of or in opposition to a candidate for public office;
• States that the measure does not affect freedom of the press, most notably for newspapers to endorse candidates;
• Does NOT challenge the concept of “corporate personhood” that allows corporates various rights and constitutional protections;
• Does NOT challenge Buckley v. Valeo, the 1976 decision that ruled campaign contributions to be a form of constitutionally protected free speech.

Note: As with any constitutional amendment, this proposal requires 2/3 support in both houses of Congress (290 in the House, 67 in the Senate), and ratification by 3/4 of the states (38) in order to be enacted. Seeing that Republicans disproportionately benefit from outside corporate spending and control far more than the 13 states necessary to block an amendment, enactment is virtually impossible barring a major shift in the political climate.

CBO Score: None provided. Would not affect federal or state spending in itself, although it may open the door for future regulations requiring enforcement.

Supporters: Democrats and allied organizations, good government organizations

• While some would like to go further and directly negate the concept of corporate personhood itself, supporters generally feel this measure is necessary to prevent corporate-aligned interests from buying elections outright and thus undermining the fabric of democracy.

Opponents: Republicans and allied organizations

• Opponents of this measure (and therefore supporters of the Citizens United decision) claim corporate spending on elections is rightfully protected by the First Amendment, as intended by the Founding Fathers. They see efforts to remove that protection as restricting freedom.

Further links
Full bill text: http://www.govtrack.us/...
Official CRS summary: http://www.govtrack.us/...
Rep. Edwards press release: http://donnaedwards.house.gov/...
The Hill article on the bill: http://thehill.com/...
Reason.com article mocking Citizens United opposition: http://reason.com/...

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site