Overturning Citizens United

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/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:HJ00078:@@@P

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/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=hj112-78
Official CRS summary: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=hj112-78&tab=summary
Rep. Edwards press release: http://donnaedwards.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=24&parentid=23&sectiontree=23,24&itemid=462
The Hill article on the bill: http://thehill.com/homenews/house/182729-house-dems-push-bill-to-overturn-citizens-united-ruling
Reason.com article mocking Citizens United opposition: http://reason.com/archives/2010/11/09/you-are-now-free-to-speak-abou/

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  • Frankofaz

    We the people of the United States of America do hereby resolve to:
    I – Reject and remove all Republican and “Tea Party” obstructionists from the US Congress and to prosecute and/or expose them for the disgraced traitors to the people and citizens that thyey are (and also the turncoat right wing democrats that have disgraced their country and party).

    II- Impeach or otherwise remove the despicable right wing traitors on the so- called “Supreme Court” and to prosecute them for their crimes against the working and middle class of America-this includes the five majorityso-called “justices” that have digraced the bench and the halls of justice.

    III( – Bust up all large banks and Wall street investment and re-seperate banking (which must be backed by full assets); banks must not be allowed to invest or speculate like Wall Street does.

    IV- All home loans in default will be forgiven, student loans will be forgiven, and Wall street and Banking crooks will be prosecuted and jailed.

    V – All elections and all candidates will be publically financed and electoral campaigns including advertising will be limited to three months prior to voting dates, primaries will be severely limited and conjtributions, gifts or lobbying any member of congress will be a crime  punhishable by five years mandatory jail.  Political appointees or elected officials will be prohibited from seeking or accepting any job in any commercial corporation or entity for ten years after leaving office,  and “Think Tanks” will be prohibited from soliciting, lobbying or proposing legislation in or by Congress.

    VI – Womens rights will be restored and reaffirmed including the absolute right to birth control and to abortion when medically advised.  Minority rights will be reinforced and all state legislation regulating immigration and voting restrictions will be nullified.

    VII – “Citizens United” will be voided by Constitutional Amendment, and ALL money emanating from corpo0rations, wealthy persons or anonymous (secret or concealed) donors or groups will be removed from government (i.e.-from people runninjg for office and from people holding office). Offenders will be prosecuted and if convicted face prison sentences and Corporations or Organizations will be fined ten percent of their net worth per offense.

    VIII – Thye seperation of churchy and state will be reaffirmed and it will be a criminal offense for any government person or agency to advocate for or fund in any manner any church or religious school or entity and for such religious entity to fund the government person or agency. Private or charter schools (religious or not) will not be funded by any federal, state or local government agency unless such school is free and open for public enroilment without cost.

    • Dantebella

       Hm, an interesting proposal, did you copy this from somewhere or come up with it yourself?

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