Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont continues to fight the good fight against Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission, the landmark 2010 Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates for unlimited political contributions to so-called independent expenditure committees. On June 3, Leahy held a Congressional hearing entitled, “Examining a Constitutional Amendment to Restore Democracy to the American People,” and he recently shepherded a bill out of the Senate Judiciary Committee (which he chairs) to amend the U.S. Constitution and allow for limits on campaign contributions.
To be successful, a constitutional amendment must be passed by both chambers of Congress; subsequent to that, two-thirds of states must vote to hold a convention, and three-quarters must then vote to approve. According to pro-amendment groups, the movement is at least one-third of the way toward meeting those numbers, with 27 senators and 98 representatives supporting the overturn of Citizens United by constitutional amendment. Sixteen states have formally called for an amendment by ballot measure, resolutions passed by the legislature, or official letters signed by a majority of state legislators.
The proposed amendment currently reads:
Section 1. To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.
Section 2. Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.
Section 3. Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.
We asked Lisa Gilbert, a lobbyist for Public Citizen who heads up the Corporate Reform Coalition,* what’s next for the proposed amendment “Procedurally, the amendment has made it through the subcommittee and the committee votes and now just awaits floor time. It could end up filibustered at the cloture vote moment, but we hope it is given space to be debated.” And what can individuals do to enhance its prospects? Gilbert advised to look at the bill’s 46 co-sponsors and lobby their representatives to sign on if they haven’t; and if they have, encourage them to make strong speeches in support when the bill gets floor time — likely in September.
With a Congress incapable of passing a resolution affirming the adorableness of puppies, we won’t hold our breaths for imminent passage. But Rome wasn’t built in a day.
* Clean Yield is a member of the Corporate Reform Coalition.
Tags: Citizens United, corporate political spending, Corporate Reform Coalition, Senator Patrick Leahy