We the People

The Senate may soon vote on the “We the People Resolution.” This resolution is well-intentioned and resonates as positive for many people on first hearing, but it is overbroad and will have unintended consequences.

The “We the People Resolution” calls on Congress to propose an amendment to the Constitution that would:

affirm that (a) the rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons, i.e. human individuals, only and (b) Congress and the states shall place limits on political contributions and expenditures to ensure that all citizens have access to the political process, and the spending of money to influence elections is not protected free speech under the First Amendment;

Some recent court cases have been characterized as saying that “corporations are people.” Obviously, they are not — as Elizabeth Warren has movingly argued, they don’t bleed, they don’t have babies, they don’t laugh or cry.   It makes intuitive sense to limit human rights to humans.

What’s not to like about the proposal?  Basically, it oversimplifies the problem of inequality.  Inequality is real and problematic, but this proposal might even make it worse.

If we actually were to pass a constitutional amendment that said corporations have no protection under the constitution, we would be putting both media organizations and advocacy organizations that speak for people at risk.  When we think of “corporations”, we think of Exxon and General Motors.  However, Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, the New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union are legally corporations too.

Supreme Court decisions have interpreted the First Amendment as giving corporations a right to disseminate their views.  This basic principle means that Exxon can market the benefits of fossil fuels, but it also means that Planned Parenthood can advocate for family planning and the New York Times can criticize the President.

If we were to amend the constitution as urged, then many Supreme Court free speech principles would be relitigated and revised by a Supreme Court likely dominated by Republican appointees.  I believe that the last thing we should do right now is take free speech rights away from a broad class of organizations.

Another problem with the resolution is that the resolution says that if Congress does not adopt the requested amendment, then the states should convene a constitutional convention to rewrite the constitution.  The provision of the constitution which allows for revision by convention has never been exercised and there are many ambiguities about how it would operate and what might come of it.  The ACLU, Common Cause and many progressive organizations have joined in opposition to calls for an unpredictable convention.

Shutting down corporate speech will not necessarily level the playing field in communication anyway.  Wealthy corporate leaders need only sell some stock in order to generate personal funds to write personal checks and act as human individuals to express their views and perhaps influence elections.  One thing I do feel we need to do is strengthen disclosure of political spending.  Wealthy donors should not be able to use deceptively named front organizations to hide their spending.

I see no magic cure for our political ailments, but I am comforted by the thought that the 99% have 99% of the votes and that by organizing we can make our voices heard.

Reaction to this post

Just to get a sense of whether I was communicating successfully about this issue, during the first 24 hours that this post was up, I had a question open at the end asking readers for level of agreement. The results were divided but majority positive with 58.4% agreeing or strongly agreeing and 25.7% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing. The comments further below are thoughtful and informative.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

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71 Comments

  1. No one is talking away their right to talk. They are taking away their ability to give bribes. Right now our bribery laws are a joke and the few laws we do have are being chipped away fast. Frankly I feel donations shouldn’t exist at all. Since it easily leads to favors/corruption (Obama main donors were the banking industry who he protected throughout his presidency). We should be moving more towards a complete public funding of elections taking any donations away. I understand your worry so I would love to hear your thoughts on how to fix our system because right now any normal laws you try to pass is easily going to be shut down by the Supreme Court like the rest of our campaign finance laws

      1. Feel the reason the scale is so high is we allow donations to happen. It’s just a race to raise the most money which has became the only factor in a race. Take away the donations and politicians are all under equal grounds. And under a public funding system we have a better control on the cost. But that’s just my idea of it.

      2. So does that mean public funding of elections isn’t worth investing energy into achieving? You seem supportive of defending democracy, yet ever so cautious. You’re a leader. Get out front!

        1. Can’t be out front on everything at once! Criminal justice reform, transportation improvement, climate change, LGTBQ rights have been some of the issues that I’ve been furthest out front on.

          1. I appreciate your concerns about distinguishing between for-profit corporations and public-interest advocacy organizations, but these concerns should be addressed through amendment, not derailing a stand against the 40-year grip of oligarchy and big business over our democracy. Neoliberal capitalsm — the untrammeled, authoritarian rule of capital and the harsh capitalist state over the middle class, workers, and the poor absent a strong labor movement, civil society, and socialist/social-democratic opposition — needs to be unequivocally challenged and defeated. You’ll be surprised, in a feudalistic economy in which nearly everyone has to work for the rapacious, cruel 1% or buy necessities from them in one way or another, how many poor, working and middle-class folks in your district, as well as professionals and liberal elitists of conscience and integrity, will fully support you . As well as the progressive grassroots within and outside your district.

            There is a problem in an intellectualism that lacks strong movement commitment, a prioritization of narrow technocratic concerns over broad moral and social imperatives, even as improving flaws in legislative languages remains important. In the unwillingness to unequivocally challenge the destructive, inhuman, and largely conscienceless grip of soulless corporations over nearly every aspect of our society. And the false choice made between process-based rule changes on one hand and substantive organizing and legislating on the other. The former is necessary to the latter, not a distraction from it.

            More broadly, the issues you’re out front on, while important, sidestep the core class-based oppressions and struggles of our society. And there absolutely is broad, reformist-liberal to progressive, social-democratic to socialist, agreement on moving away from harsh neoliberal oligarchy towards progressive or social-democratic capitalism. As well as challenging the grip of money over politics as a means toward this end and good government generally. Public opinion is overwhelming on these issues. The only thing standing in the way is the disproportionate stake of a center-right corporate, political and intellectual power structure in a frankly cruel, dysfunctional and, for many, increasingly hopeless status quo.

            1. Charles, I know you are right about inequality.

              But, I think that words in the constitution really matter. That comes from defending people in the courts. that is not technocratic.

              I’ll think about the strategy of amending the language, but I’m not sure that the sponsors of the legislation will accept amendments.

  2. I can’t tell whether this is designed to reverse the Citizens United case that gave corporations unlimited rights to contribute to campaigns, or if it is something else. I certainly think we need something that gets the big money out of politics and goes back to where there were limitations. The language in this resolution is unclear to me.

  3. The proposal is to limit political
    contributions, but does not say what
    the limits would be or how they would
    be determined, by whom they would be determined, to whom or to what they would apply.
    Would the limit be smaller for a tiny local election than
    for a national office (e.g. president)?
    Is it reasonable to suppose that
    such limits could be enforced?
    Would Massachusetts voters have the same limits for spending in Utah
    elections as for spending in elections
    in their own state? (Cross-state meddling)

    Would Russians and Saudi Arabians
    have a limit on spending in US elections? (Cross-nation meddling).

    Would corporations have different limits than individuals do?
    (Cross-species meddling).

    The proposal is too vague as yet.

  4. If I read your post 1 year ago, I would totally agree with you, but my opinion changed after I encountered “Asian data disaggregation”, the nature of which is a registry of Asian immigrant’ national origin. Planned parenthood, MIRA coalition along with other “progressive” organizations. During my very trying last year, I have a feeling that I am fighting with NRA. It is people with special interests. I think when an organization has too much political power, there is an increased chance of forgetting the little people’s real concerns and pursue their own social elite’ version of justice.
    Actually, even the amendment was passed one year ago, I don’t think it would make my life easier. But a limited political power of any organization make me feel safer after I was on the receiving end of these painful experience. Will, you are always a very good friend of Chinese immigrants, thank you!

    1. Typo. Planned parenthood, MIRA coalition along with other “progressive” organizations supported it.

  5. I agree with your points but I wonder if something narrower, perhaps prohibiting for-profit corporations from making political contributions, or limiting them, would help. Isn’t there a limit on how much money individuals can donate to a candidate? Does that apply to corporations now?

    1. Yes. Donations to candidates are limited and that is constitutional — the rational is that, although limiting contributions does limit free speech, there is a good policy reason not to allow large donations to candidates — it could corrupt them. However, there is no limit on independent expenditures because they the candidate could not divert them to his own uses.

      As you suggest, some narrower idea might make sense, but this proposal broadly abrogates the rights of all kinds of organizations.

  6. It is an unfortunate fact of life that money talks.Fortunately,individuals can vote and have the power to remove those who are bought.

  7. I agree with you re b) but I don’t see your point re a)–whatever restricitions we place on individual and corporate political donations, surely it makes sense to distinguish the two so as to be able to regulate each effectively?

  8. I strongly agree that an Article V convention would not be desirable. I am aware that there is a strong push by balanced budget advocates to pass an Amendment which would shut down deficit spending and that would ruin our ability to function. That can work for states but not the nation.
    I am not sure about restricting corporate speech as I think organized groups that speak, such as ACLU, Planned Parenthood workers and clients are not solely corporations but are also groups of people. Unlike Exxon as an entity which is a business and it’s employees are not likely all to be of the same mind as the corporate entity.
    My concern is that as an individual with limited resources, I do not have the same amount of speech as a wealthy individual or entity and I feel that lopsided influence is diminishing our democracy. Something needs to be done to even the playing field so that our votes matter more than the amount of green in our pockets. And that corporate interests with the most resources do not squash the voices of individuals. I do not know the solution. But agree that the Constitutional Convention idea would likely make things worse.

  9. “Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, the New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union are all corporations too.”

    Actually, that’s not true; they are not C-corporations but 501c3’s (not sure about the NYT, but no matter) as you well know. And of course they need to be, and are, regulated quite differently. This is basically a good idea.

    More importantly, your argument is basically specious because (to the best of my knowledge) the issue of constitutional rights has never come up for a 501c3, although it has 100’s of times over a span of well over a century for C-corporations, all the way up to the Supreme Court. If you know of a case at all, you should’ve cited it rather than phrase your argument in wholly hypothetical terms, but it would be the exception that proves the rule in any case.

    The issue of corporate constitutional rights is actually older and far broader than “money in politics”, and if you know anything about our nation’s history you will know that our founders never intended that corporations be given constitutional rights (especially since the Dutch East India company was essentially an arm of the British Crown that we’d just fought a war with). For a very long time after, corporations were chartered for only 20 years at a time, and so had to regularly prove that they were serving the public interest as well as that of their shareholders.

    For a detailed history of these matters, I refer you to the book “Gangs of America” by Ted Nace. Please don’t bother to reply to me before you’ve read it (as I have). It isn’t hard.

    Spending money as a form of “speech” is a more recent invention, but it serves the same corporate ends. True someone can just sell their stock and so “privately” further their corporate interests, but since McCutcheon v. FEC hasn’t that also been a problem that only a constitutional amendment could address? And why the hell don’t know seem to know that?

    As for the uncertainties surrounding an Amendment V Constitutional Convention, all I can say is that (especially since the election of Trump, which just begins to show what happens when a government loses its legitimacy in the eyes of the governed) I’m a lot more afraid of milk toast approaches that accomplish next-to nothing than I am of a free and open debate. Although I hope it doesn’t come to that since we (as a society) have things like climate change to deal with and really shouldn’t be wasting our time on hypotheticals.

    Fortunately, ever time it’s come down to a Constitutional Convention to date, Congress has buckled and (finally) done its job. I suspect it would in this case too (at the grass-roots level, the issue has bipartisan support, in case you also did not know that).

    ‘nough said? There are things I like about you but if someone comes along that has a deeper perspective on these issues I will be voting for them regardless.

    TFH

    1. PLANNED PARENTHOOD ADVOCACY FUND, INC. is a Massachusetts corporation. Nothing about the language of this amendment would preserve rights for particular categories of corporations. That’s the problem — it’s overbroad.

      Agreed that there is a lot we’d like to change about our society, but my point is just that this amendment does not offer the right construct.

      1. Your reply only addresses one point out of the six that I made. But since it seems to be your main concern: Defunding Planned Parenthood is at least as good as forbidding them from advocating for choice, and they’ve already gotten close to that at the federal level. At the same time, conservative states are throwing so many regulatory hurdles at them that it’s had to shut down most of its clinics in those states anyway. Should Congress hit it with redundant limits on it’s ability to advertise its abortion services, MA could defy the Feds just as it has with marijuana legalization, sanctuary cities and many other things.

        In short, I really do not see this isolated issue as being at all comparable to the way that corporate constitutional rights have been eroding our democracy for well over a century. You are fixating on *comparatively* minor issues that could, in contrast, be dealt with piecemeal by state-level regulations. This is probably a reflection of your lifelong commitment to modern corporate capitalism, which I think Jefferson and Madison would have had a lot less sympathy for than our present-day prohibition on slavery. Which, BTW, some corporations would probably be advocating for today (under the name of prison labor, most likely) if it were not for the *grassroots* opposition that would spring into action as a result.

        Most importantly: You REALLY should read Ted Nace’s book before you’re too much older!

  10. Points with which I strongly disagree:

    It is absurd to incorporate to avoid personal legal culpability for malfeasance AND then say you should be able to express your personal conscience through that same corporation.

    The Senator knows that under CU, companies can compel their employees to participate in political activities:
    http://prospect.org/article/employer-political-coercion-growing-threat

    He knows that this is power that is criminal for any other person to exercise: if a caretaker withheld food from an elderly person until they filled out their absentee ballot as dictated, that’d result in jail time.

    The whole point of CU and this interpretation of corporate personhood is to exacerbate inequality, disempower working people relative to plutocratic elites, and create a class of people that are more equal than others.

    The reason we need an amendment is because this interpretation of corporate personhood – this extension of a legal fiction ad absurdum – is deeply toxic to our society.

    The argument on the press is simply not credible. No textualist, no originalist, no doctrine of Constitutional interpretation would allow for content based closures of news outlets.

    If we were in a situation where the government were attempting such a thing, it would be because norms have eroded to the point where they believe there’d be no consequences for ideological persecution of media outlets. They wouldn’t need an amendment or a court ruling to do that: they could target outlets via the IRS or FCC or any other extant body that would allow them facially legal pretexts for their censorious agenda. That agenda would be the problem: they’d use whatever legal vehicle available to pursue it (see: xenophobic immigration policies).

    As with immigration, we need to acknowledge that our system has to be fixed to prevent such abuses in the future by the inevitable next bad actor.

    Points with which I agree:

    This strategy for the 28th is inadvisable: it would increase the chances of success and improve the final product just to get people together to write the amendment and pass that rather than having a convention.

    1. HI Solomon, I really don’t know how CU relates to workplace political activity. I don’t connect the dots as the article you refer does.

      But this amendment does much more than undo CU. It takes a meat cleaver to first amendment jurisprudence including much of the jurisprudence before CU.

      Also worth noting that it undoes protections for organized activity under other amendments too.

  11. I believe there are three major groups in our society. Individuals, Smaller organizations that have to accept the playing field for customers, ideas and market conditions and Large enterprises, organizations along with the extremely wealthly who are able through money, influence and buying access are able to shape the market place to their advantage. I lump the problem of buying access to all levels of government as a core problem with our democracy. How those of us who have to take the conditions of society and the market place, Individuals and small businesses, can counter the disproportional influence of the advantaged classes is a what needs to be corrected. If the advantaged classes are able to use the legal system to block or disadvantage any re balancing of power as I believe they have done, in society then they take over. Your comments seem to indicate a fatalism that your do not see a way forward and an unwillingness to try anything to re-balance power in our society so the politics is more about individuals and less about powerful interests. If I am wrong I would like you to comment on what changes you see as being workable.

    1. I would like to make an edit to my comment. to re-balance power in our society so the politics is more about individuals and the common wealth of all citizens in our society and less about powerful interests getting the government to keep or increase their advantages.

  12. After reading your piece and, while not yet persuaded but wanting to understand your viewpoint better, I was curious as to what the Sierra Club and ACLU had to say on the subject.

    Found this:
    https://content.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2016/01/sierra-club-statement-sixth-anniversary-citizens-united
    and:
    https://www.aclu.org/other/aclu-and-citizens-united

    But most compelling for me was an article by Burt Neuborne who “served as national legal director of the ACLU during the Reagan administration, and has represented Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold in litigation over campaign finance reform”. He states, in part:
    “I confess to having supported the ACLU position in Buckley. As the corrosive effects on democracy of uncontrolled campaign spending became increasingly clear, however, I joined several former ACLU leaders—Norman Dorsen, Aryeh Neier, John Shattuck and Mort Halperin—in opposing the organization’s campaign finance position. We have argued, before the Supreme Court and the ACLU board, that spending massive amounts of money during an election campaign is not ‘pure’ speech when the spending level is so high that it drowns out competing voices by repeating the same message over and over at higher decibel levels; that a compelling interest in equality justifies preventing wealthy speakers from buying up an unfair proportion of the speech in settings like courtrooms, classrooms, town meetings, presidential debates and elections; that massive campaign spending by “independent” entities poses a serious risk of postelection corruption; and that corporations lack the attributes of conscience and human dignity that justify free-speech protection.”
    https://www.thenation.com/article/why-aclu-wrong-about-citizens-united/

    1. It’s one thing to want to reverse Citizens United and return to the compromise jurisprudence that preceded it. It’s another altogether to put at risk the freedom of all corporate organizations (non-profit and otherwise).

  13. While I agree to some extent with your concerns, I think the resolution is unlikely to lead to the dire consequences you foresee from “shutting down corporate speech”. Regardless of clause (a) the special constitutional protections for the free press will remain intact, separate from individual freedom of speech. The concerns you voice can certainly be worked out in the language of any final amendment.

    The fundamental issue is that the Supreme Court has chosen, with Citizens United, to restrict campaign finance regulation to such an absurd extent that our political process has become subject to, and corrupted by, the influence of monied interests. Democracy, like free-market capitalism, can only flourish long term when its rules and dynamics are wisely (and minimally) regulated to ensure the systems are not hijacked by interests that run counter to the common good. We’ve been told that essentially no regulation of campaign finance is consistent with the Constitution. The only recourse we have, other than to wait (decades?) for turnover in the Court to change its view, is to clarify the Constitution with an amendment.

    Regardless of the success of this initiative, support for it sends the right message: Citizens United was wrong and has contributed (in part, but significantly) to the current breakdown of our political system.

    1. . . . the special constitutional protections for the free press will remain intact, separate from individual freedom of speech.

      That’s the thing. There is no separate “freedom of the press” that would remain protected under the constitution if the Bill of Rights is sharply limited to natural persons.

      But I understand the sentiment.

  14. [email protected]. I don’t how I feel about corporations in this arena. I take your point – that there are good and bad.

    I think that the Citizen’s United vote is a (maybe not “the only”) base cause of the huge rise in partisanship, viciousness, disrespect, and open hatred that is tearing out political world apart today. I should have the same exact right to vote, and my vote should carry the exact same weight as, say, Sheldon Edelson. Yes – each of our actual votes carries the same weight. I get that. However, Sheldon contributing $BILLONS of dollars in support of his position puts everyone who cannot do that at an unfair disadvantage.

  15. I disagree that limiting the Bill of Rights to natural persons would necessarily limit the speech of corporations, or that this would be wrong. Corporations don’t have natural inalienable rights. They have rights given to them by the state that charters them, and additionally by the federal government under the interstate commerce clause.
    By clarifying that the Bill of Rights only applies to natural persons, you don’t automatically strip corporations of their right to speech. Clause (b) above only seeks to limit corporate speech vis-a-vis money spent trying to influence elections. It doesn’t say that Planned Parenthood or the New York Times can’t make their views known. It just says that they no longer have an unlimited right to spend money on advertising seeking to influence elections.

    I understand the concerns about calling a Constitutional Convention, given that once you open that door, it could result in all sorts of other Amendments that actually do damage to our democracy. On the other hand, the French have rewritten their constitution many times. My question is, do we really expect that Congress would ever introduce this Amendment without a convention? Is there an alternative strategy that doesn’t just chip away at the problem?

    I wonder if there are other ways to limit political spending on TV advertising by changing FCC rules or election laws. But I suspect if there are ways, someone has tried them.

    1. Clause (a) of this amendment language really does strip all constitutional protections for the activities of corporations, whether they are Exxon or Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund, Inc. (true corporate name registered in MA).

      You are right that doesn’t mean that Congress wouldn’t honor freedom for the press or protect advocacy organizations, but I personally wouldn’t want to trust press freedom to Congress (ever).

      We are all struggling to find a better strategy!

  16. Of course corporations have and should have free speech. What are commercials, after all? But let’s not conflate free speech with political clout. Perhaps the proposed amendment is worded too broadly, but who can deny the urgency and corruption of all this shoveling of big money at politicians that our supreme jurists find no problem with?

    (In fact, Roberts went out of his way in his Citizens United opinion to extend free speech rights to capital, a question that the plaintiffs did not even ask.)

    How would YOU address this corruption of the body politic in a consequential way?

    1. How would YOU address this corruption of the body politic in a consequential way?

      My main answer to this question is: By providing the best and most honest service to my constituents and the Commonwealth that I can.

      None of us can save the world alone. There is no magic bullet. We just all have to set a good example and make a difference in the space we touch.

      I don’t have better or more cosmic answers than that.

  17. I agree that the proposal as currently written is way too broad. I am hopeful that there is a way to place sensible limits on the amounts of campaign donations without trampling on free speech rights. I don’t really know what new changes to campaign financing actually resulted from Citizens United.i My understanding is that one of the big problems since Citizens United is the unlimited “secret money”donations that can be made to political action committees, as long as there is no “coordination” with the candidates’ campaign committees. Enforcement of the coordination limits is very difficult. I don’t believe that there should be any secret donations, either to PACs or campaign committees and I would like to see changes in our laws to accomplish this. I think public financing would probably be the best method, but I have no hope for it in our current society.

    1. My understanding is that one of the big problems since Citizens United is the unlimited “secret money”donations that can be made to political action committees, as long as there is no “coordination” with the candidates’ campaign committees.

      Yes. The secret money really is the problem and we can fix that with more disclosure. There is no constitutional barrier to that. The problem is lack of political will.

  18. I strongly agree with your position for many of the reasons you described. A couple points I would like to also highlight:

    -corporate personhood is what allows us to sue corporations. Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to sue the tobacco companies, for instance.

    -a constitutional convention is a terrifying thought. You rightly describe it as “unpredictable” but I don’t think that goes far enough. Republicans completely control 26 states (legislatures and governorships). In a constitutional convention, they could leverage that towards truly terrifying, horrific ends.

  19. People are disgusted with the freedom and impact of corporate contributions to the campaigns of legislators, as well as the abuse of pretending corporations are people. I have a friend who runs a PAC, and readily acknowledges bringing his “bribes” to Washington periodically. Politicians will not act to even address the problem, let alone solve it. So, ham-handed efforts like this amendment arise. I support anything that changes the current sorry status.

  20. CAMPAIGN REFORM SOUNDS GOOD BUT THE QUESTION IS WILL IT DISINFRANCHISE THE VOTER CHOICE. CAMPAIGN FUNDING REFORM COULD BE THE ANSWER. STATE BAND LOCAL CAMPAIGN FUNDING SHOULD BE RESTRICTED TO SOURCES IN THE STATE. FOR NATIONAL ELECTION, WHEN VIOLATION OF THE SET STANDARDS ARE DISCOVERED,THOUSE FUNDS SHOULD NOT BE RETURED TO THE VIOLATORS BUT TO STATE OR FRDERAL CAMPAIGN FUNDS SUCH AS WHEN YOU CONTRIBUTE A $1 ON YOUR TAX FORM. N0T MUCH BUT IT WOULD BE A START.

  21. A Constitutional Convention is dangerous because: (1) there’s little experience to guide the process; (2) once convened, anything could happen; and (3) it might be impossible to convene another convention to reverse the earlier one.

    Where the Supreme Court erred is in defining money as a type of protected speech, which is why corporations now can legally spend unlimited money (“speech”) altering how government works.

    We don’t want to outlaw corporate donations to politics, but we don’t want to let those donations remain unlimited, either.

    And whatever the limits are, there must always be full public disclosure of every dollar spent to influence political candidates, legislation, and/or causes.

  22. This may have some flaws as a remedy, but the Citizen’s United decision has been a disaster. See Justice Stevens dissent for an eloquent well reasoned assessment.

    We need to put limits on campaign spending because money is not equal to speech. If it were, then by definition rich people (and corporations would have more speech than the rest of us.

    This is certainly not what the founding fathers intended.

  23. Clearly the abuse of corporate personhood has ingrained a culture of legalized bribery into our political system. Our so-called democracy is a sham. You raise legitimate issues with taking away the “personhood” of corporations. Instead, we should be able to write a law that restricts donations to small amounts by living persons, excluding corporate persons. Also, except for donations to political campaigns for president of the United States, donations across state lines should be prohibited. A lot of money flows into state campaigns from outside states. Then the issue of PACs needs to be addressed since they are essentially just a means to evade efforts to keep campaign financing honest.
    So, why not push for laws to fix these aspects rather than sending us into a constitutional crisis. The “we the people resolution” is a plea to save our democracy which is virtually now a corporate kleptocracy.

    1. I agree that the resolution speaks to a sense that powerful special interests are controlling our fate. The real issue is inequality. The question is how to fix that without throwing out our constitutional liberties.

  24. I agree that this is too broad, but by no means should we completely write off concerns related to campaign finance. It is undeniable that spending habits have changed since Citizens United.

    Why not push for an amendment that clearly articulates universal suffrage? Or one that combats gerrymandering by requiring apportionment be conducted by nonpartisan panels instead of legislative bodies that have a vested interest in the outcome? Surely those would be easier to write and face fewer pitfalls.

  25. I could not put it more succintly myself. I have been dreaming of such amendment for many years. Finally we will put the individual above the capital, in our to capitalistic country. Down with corporate influence, by their CEOs to make a bigger bonus, at the cost of individual political expression. They have to find another way to earn their bonuses. We finally will have democracy for the PEOPLE. In some countries the political campaigns are funded by the State, with funds collected from ALL their citizens.

  26. Though I strongly agree with the intent of the proposal, I want a fuller public discussion of its content and scope. Once we opened the Pandora’s box, as of The Odyssey—like the power of Facebook, fake news, and money—how we modify that power is a key element of any solution.

  27. Well reasoned analysis based on facts. Unusual in this era. I especially agree about the harm that a constitutional convention is likely to do. Witness the many (red) states that have already voted for one, ostensibly to deal with the (un)balanced federal budget issue.

    In my view, this problem should be addressed by campaign finance reform (limits, deductability, transparency, etc.). But in the event that Congress members (who benefit from the status quo) were to pass any such law, this Supreme Court is unlikely to deem it constitutional. Better to get out the vote, take control, reconfigure the court and then have the constitutional convention to deal with the voting distortions caused by our now outmoded Electoral Collage.

  28. Thank you for this explanation! I have signed the We the People petition, when approached on the street. But I respect and value your analysis. (It’s a funny thing to say, but my email inbox hears from far too many advocacy groups, as compared to lawyers or legislators. It’s hard to find experts who’ll present multi-sided opinions to the public.)

  29. I appreciate your concerns about the wording of this Act; it is crucial that a Constitutional Amendment be worded very carefully. My view is that the right way to handle the problems with the wording is to amend the Act.
    It is unfortunately necessary to pass something that will allow the process of amending the constitution, to correct serious mistakes made by the Supreme Court, to proceed.
    The Supreme Court’s mis-application of “person rights” to for-profit corporations needs to be corrected, they are clearly assemblies of people not individuals. Most ridiculous was the attribution of a religion to a corporation in the Hobby Lobby case. The Citizens United and related decisions, which are based in part on this same theory that corporations are people, plus the idea that money = speech, have had the effect of making it impossible to regulate political spending. This is very dangerous for our democracy.
    I completely agree with you that it would be very imprudent to call a constitutional convention, that clause should be removed from the Act.

    1. This is all way too facile a dismissal of reforms that are essential if the US is to become a democracy again, as it is not now. It’s like a game, always finding fault with attempts to rein in the ruling rich.

      Corporations are not people, period, and the Civil War Amendments were written to protect black people, not boardrooms and shareholders.

      Money is not speech, period, because if it is, then no money equals no speech.

      These are not nice to have, pie in the sky ideals. These are last-ditch lifesaving measures. Does it need to be drafted more precisely? Sure. Its a petition, not a final Amendment. This is no excuse not to support it.

      1. Hi Steve,

        I share the passion about inequality in our society.

        But ultimately, we are writing words that will have consequences. I take this seriously. If you’d like to have a deeper conversation, please do give me a call on my cell phone: 617-771-8274.

        All best,

        /w.

  30. A concept that I keep returning to when questions of individual representation are raised such as the, “We The People Resolution” is an idea that the original framers of the Constitution had; that being “1 for 30,000”. ie 1 member of the House of Reps. for each 30,000 US citizens. Why this was “shut down/turned off” in the 1913 US Congress I can’t seem to find out and no one really talks about it. Locked at 435 Reps for 330,000,000 citizens seems like too small of a number. 2 major party’s (vying for mega-bucks to run campaigns) is really a 1 major party in my eyes. Trying to stay positive but our “democtratic experiment called the USofA” really seems less and less democratic as time goes on. thanks for this great Blog Dave

  31. I strongly agree with your position.

    I think we need to be far more careful what we put into a constitution. Much of what is suggested should be laws not amendments in my opinion.

  32. Will,

    I should probably dig into Citizen’s United more than I have, however, freedom of association and freedom of assembly are also part of the First Amendment.

    Given that, can’t people form groups and use their collective resources to publicize their opinions?

    In other words, I agree about the unintended consequences here. It doesn’t seem people are thinking through all of their 1A rights.

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