Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn a Supreme Court ruling that allowed unrestricted, secret campaign spending by corporations and billionaires. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) filed the "Democracy is for People" amendment in the House.
The 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission undermined democracy by opening the campaign spending floodgates. Already 11 states including Vermont and more than 300 cities and towns have passed resolutions calling for the ruling to be overturned.
As a result of the controversial decision, a record $7 billion was spent in the 2012 election cycle. The secretive billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch reportedly steered at least $400 million into campaigns.
Said Sanders, "What the Supreme Court did in Citizens United is to tell billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, "You own and control Wall Street. You own and control coal companies. You own and control oil companies. Now, for a very small percentage of your wealth, we're going to give you the opportunity to own and control the United States government.' That is the essence of what Citizens United is all about. That is why this disastrous decision must be reversed."
"The Democracy is for People Amendment will stop corporations and their front groups from using their profits and dark money donations to influence our elections while reaffirming the right of the American people to elections that are fair and representatives that are accountable," Deutch said.
The amendment would make it clear that the right to vote and the ability to make campaign contributions and expenditures belong only to real people.
The amendment would effectively prevent corporations from bankrolling election campaigns. Congress and states would have specific authority to regulate campaign finances by, for example, limiting donations, requiring disclosure of donors or creating public-financing systems for campaigns.
A similar constitutional amendment introduced by Sanders and Deutch in the last session of Congress would have addressed spending by for-profit corporations in elections. Much of the "dark money" funneled through nonprofit organizations in 2012 would not have been restricted, but would be covered by the new version of the amendment.
An amendment originating in Congress must be approved by a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate in order to be submitted for consideration by the states. Ratification by three-fourths of the states is required to amend the Constitution.