Commentary: Today, just days after the seventh anniversary of the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. FEC decision allowing unlimited corporate spending in elections, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, joined by U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich and other cosponsors in the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, reintroduced the Democracy for All amendment to restore democratic power to the American people. The constitutional amendment would overturn Citizens United and allow limits on corporate political spending to get big money out of politics. In addition to Udall and Heinrich, the bill is cosponsored by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).
The Citizens United decision granted corporations and other private entities the First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence public elections and prohibited any election laws that would regulate their spending. The Democracy for All Amendment returns the right to regulate elections to the people by clarifying that Congress and the states can set reasonable regulations on campaign finance and distinguish between individuals and corporations in the law.
“The 2016 election was supposed to be a call to ‘drain the swamp’ — because so many Americans are fed up with business as usual in Washington, where moneyed special interests drown out the voices of regular Americans,” Udall said. “But instead of reform, President Trump has set out rewarding Wall Street insiders and billionaire donors with cabinet and other key positions in the new administration, and the ultra-wealthy and well-connected look to have more power than ever in determining the future of our democracy. Each year, because of Citizens United and subsequent decisions, the door has opened wider for rich special interests and corporations to pour unlimited sums of money into our elections and root themselves in our government. The only real way we can put our democracy back in the hands of all Americans, instead of a privileged, powerful few, is to amend the Constitution. Our Democracy for All Amendment restores the authority of the American people – through Congress and the states – to regulate campaign finance, so that our elections aren’t put up for sale to the highest bidder. Millions of people across the country and over a dozen state legislatures, including New Mexico’s, have voiced support for a constitutional amendment, and we must keep pressing forward to ensure a government that is of, by, and for the people.”
“Our leaders must have the trust of the American people that their decisions will benefit everyone, not just the wealthy. In the wake of Supreme Court decisions that equated money with speech, it has become urgent for Congress to do what it can to restore transparency and accountability to the political system," said Heinrich. "That’s why I am proud to join Senator Udall in introducing this constitutional amendment. Continuing on a path that equates money with speech, and corporations with people, erodes the integrity of our political process and the public's faith in our leaders to do what's right.”
The amendment is backed by numerous campaign finance reform and good government groups, which issued the following statements in support:
“Americans may be divided about many things, but they are united in their belief that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision was a disaster,” said Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen. “They know that the political system is rigged, and that Citizens United-enabled spending by corporations and the super-rich is a big part of the problem. It is past time to overturn this decision and get big money out of politics. Public Citizen thanks Rep. Ted Deutch and other sponsors of the Democracy for All amendment for their leadership in advancing this vital initiative."
“Common Cause commends Congressman Deutch, Senator Udall, and many other members of Congress for their leadership in championing the Democracy for All Amendment to help reduce the influence of big money in politics,” said Aaron Scherb, Director of Legislative Affairs at Common Cause. “The Democracy for All Amendment would help ensure that the voices of all Americans can be heard in our democracy even if they can’t hire a lobbyist, make a large campaign contribution, or start a super PAC.”
“After the election, it’s clearer than ever that we need money in politics reform,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way. “Super PAC spending during the 2016 cycle was nearly double what it was in the last presidential election. The voices of everyday Americans can’t be heard when wealthy special interests can tilt our elections to fit their interests. We applaud Senator Udall, Representative Deutch, Representative McGovern, Representative Raskin, and the other congressional champions who continue to push for needed reforms like the Democracy For All Amendment.”
“We applaud Members of Congress for re-introducing the Democracy For All Amendment to ensure that big money interests will no longer be able to dominate our elections and our government, drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens," said John Bonifaz, President of Free Speech For People. "To advance the promise of political equality for all and to reclaim our democracy, Congress must pass this constitutional amendment and send it to the states for ratification.”
“Americans across the political spectrum know we must have the 28th Amendment so that people, not money and global corporations, govern America," said Jeff Clements, President of American Promise. "At American Promise, we applaud this progress in Congress and urge cross-partisan support for this effort.”