When we started our second season back in January, all eyes were on the plans of new Republican House majority. With that in mind, our first episode was on an extremely insider issue: transparency provisions in the House rules package. As the year has progressed, however, disillusioned activists across the political spectrum began to seek larger, systemic reforms to a broken political system. In homage to an evolving political climate, we wrap up the season with perhaps our most “outsider” summary to date: the OCCUPIED constitutional amendment by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL19).
Deutch was inspired to act by the grievances at the heart of the Occupy Wall Street sensation – frustration with a political system corrupted by money and designed to advance the interests of large corporations and the super-rich. The amendment is the most far-reaching attempt to undo the corrosive effects of money in politics by getting at the roots. While we recently covered another proposed amendment by Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD4) that would simply overturn Citizens United, this amendment also negates corporate personhood and essentially gives Congress and state legislatures the authority to enact whatever campaign finance reform measures they deem necessary.
While this proposal has virtually no chance of even receiving a hearing in the Republican-controlled House, it is a clarifying rhetorical measure as the most logical legislative answer to the demands of the Occupiers, stated or otherwise.
See below the fold for the one-pager and further links.
90 Second Summaries: Season 2, Episode 30
H. J. Res. 90: Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy (OCCUPIED) Constitutional Amendment
Sponsor: Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL19)
Click here to download this summary (pdf)
Cosponsors: 3 (3 Democrats, 0 Republicans). Full list at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:HJ00090:@@@P
Status: Referred to Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution. Almost certain to die without a hearing.
Senate Companion: No direct counterpart.
Purpose: 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. 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. Rep. Donna Edwards’ proposal, H.J. Res. 78, overturns the decision but does not proscribe the corporate personhood doctrine that undergirds Citizens United. This amendment offers a more aggressive approach, aiming to create the conditions for sweeping campaign finance reform. The name is, naturally, an homage to the burgeoning Occupy movement.
Summary: The OCCUPIED Act (unofficial name) contains four clauses. They are as follows:
1) Overturns Corporate Personhood – states that constitutional protections apply only to human beings and not to corporations or other business entities of any sort. This clause would force the judiciary to revisit a controversial constitutional interpretation that has stood in some form for over a century.
2) Reaffirms Constitutionality of Government Regulations – makes clear that corporations are established by the law and are thus subject to local and federal regulations.
3) Overturns Citizens United – prohibits corporations from spending money to influence any election or ballot measure.
4) Overturns Buckley v. Valeo – reaffirms the right of Congress and the states to regulate all campaign expenditures, including those by individuals and candidates themselves.
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. With Republicans controlling far more than the 13 states necessary to block an amendment, enactment is virtually impossible barring a massive 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: most Democrats and allied organizations, good government organizations
• Supporters feel this measure is necessary to prevent corporate-aligned interests from buying elections outright and thus undermining the fabric of democracy. They also believe the idea that protections for corporate political activity grotesquely distort the Founders’ intent as expressed in the Bill of Rights.
Opponents: Republicans and allied organizations
• Opponents of this measure (and therefore supporters of the Citizens United decision) claim corporate spending on elections is protected by the First Amendment, as intended by the Founding Fathers. They see efforts to remove that protection as restricting freedom.
Full legislative text: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.J.RES.90:
Rep. Deutch press release with summary: http://deutch.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=269672
Main Street Insider’s summary of the Donna Edwards amendment: http://www.mainstreetinsider.org/90secondsummaries/?p=520
Heritage Foundation blog post opposing the amendment: http://bit.ly/rrPFQl
Washington Post interview with Rep. Deutch: http://wapo.st/tMGcBe