Today, U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch (FL-21), Donna Edwards (MD-4), and Jim McGovern (MA-2) were joined by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) and Chairman of the House Election Task Force John Larson (CT-1) to introduce H.J. Res 119, a companion to S.J. Res 19, the constitutional amendment slated for a historic vote in the U.S. Senate later this year. The Democracy is for All Amendment will reverse highly controversial Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC, which have given corporations and the wealthiest donors the right to buy unlimited influence in our elections.
"Our Founders pledged their lives, their liberty and their sacred honor to build a democracy--a government of the many, not a government of the money," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. "Yet today, after deeply misguided Supreme Court decisions from Citizens United to McCutcheon, that vision is drowning under the weight of millions of dollars of secret, special interest spending. The constitutional amendment we are introducing today is the product of bicameral consensus -- a strong amendment to restore the voice of the American people in our elections."
"We need to give our elections back to everyday Americans," said Rep. Larson. "The electoral process is awash with unregulated and undisclosed money. Recent Supreme Court decisions have continued clearing a path for special interests, millionaires and billionaires to drown out the voices of the people. This amendment is a vital step towards strengthening our system by reversing the negative impact of decisions like Citizens United, helping ensure our elections are not for sale to the highest bidder. I commend Leader Pelosi for creating an agenda to take big money influence out of politics and thank Representatives Deutch, Edwards, McGovern and the entire Task Force for putting everyday Americans first."
"Our electoral democracy is based on the premise that at the voice of a billionaire is worth no more than that of a school teacher," said Rep. Deutch. "Unfortunately, Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United have contributed to a dysfunctional environment where the opinions of everyday Americans go unheard and special interests can easily override the will of the people. The Democracy for All Amendment will resurrect the principle of one voice, one vote by enshrining in the Constitution a right to limit money in politics and protect the integrity of the electoral process."
"It's time to give Congress the authority that the Supreme Court has said it does not have to regulate corporate and individual spending on our elections," said Rep. Edwards. "A constitutional amendment is the only permanent way to ensure the American people that they are in charge of our political process. I am proud to cosponsor the Democracy is for All Amendment, and look forward to continue working with my colleagues and stakeholders to pass this amendment that is critical to the future of our democracy."
"The American political system is drowning in a sea of special interest money," Rep. McGovern said. "The American people are sick and tired of it, and they have made it very clear that they want to take their system back. I am proud to join with my colleagues in introducing the Democracy for All amendment."
Since the 2010 Citizens United decision, Americans have witnessed an unprecedented explosion of big money in state and federal elections. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, outside spending tripled between 2008 and 2012, and 93 percent of the more than $600 million spent in 2012 by Super PACs came from about 3,300 donors, or .0011 percent of the American population.
Beyond the explosion of outside spending invited by the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, this decision also dramatically undermined the legitimacy of all campaign finance laws. In his far-reaching opinion for the 5-4 majority, Justice Kennedy held that any election law that goes beyond preventing quid pro quo, bribery-style corruption between candidates and donors risks violating the First Amendment. Unfortunately, in 2014 the Supreme Court only further embraced this narrow understanding of corruption in McCutcheon v. FEC when it invalidated aggregate limits on how much a single donor could spend per election cycle. Writing for the 5-4 majority, Chief Justice Roberts even went so far as to argue that the influence awarded to donors is not a corrupting quid pro quo transaction, but a First Amendment right.
Sponsored in the U.S. Senate by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), S.J. 19 was amended and passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 10, 2014. The provisions within the Democracy for All Amendment are the product of months of collaboration between the House and Senate sponsors of previously proposed constitutional amendments, constitutional scholars, and grassroots advocacy organizations committed to restoring the integrity of our electoral process. In addition to overturning recent rulings like Citizens United and McCutcheon, the Democracy is for All Amendment also reverses the Supreme Court's controversial holding in Buckley v. Valeo that spending money in elections is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment.
At a time when Americans across the political spectrum agree that money is not speech and that elected government should be accountable to voters, the Democracy for all Amendment will restore constitutional legitimacy to laws limiting spending in our elections.