Target: United States Congress
Goal: End corporate spending in public elections
An amendment proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Representative Ted Deutch (D-Fl.) was recently introduced to the Senate and House. Named “Democracy is for People,” the amendment seeks to end unrestricted corporate spending in elections for public officials.
Specifically, the amendment aims to overturn the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, by limiting the ability to make contributions and expenditures that influence the outcomes of elections to individuals. If ratified, the amendment would bar corporations, nonprofits, unions, trade associations, and other private entities without the right to vote from spending money from their general treasuries in elections.
Previously, corporate spending was limited to political action committees, or PACs, that were funded by the voluntary donations of individuals. However, in 2010, the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission permitted corporations and unions to make political expenditures directly from their treasuries, as well as through other organizations, as long as the spending is done independent of any candidate. Often this spending activity comes in the form of television advertisements and a great part of it is funded by “dark money,” in which the identity of the donor remains secret. Nine out of ten ads purchased with untraceable “dark money” tend to be negative, and an analysis by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found, during the 2012 presidential election, that 26% were outright deceptive. These kinds of advertisements, paid for by anonymous donors, result in the kind of smear campaigns that are becoming all-too common.
If “Democracy is for People,” is ratified, all spending that does not originate from the voluntary donations of individuals would be unconstitutional. While this will not remove the influences of large donations, nor negate the effects of big spending during campaigns, it could go a long way toward reining in the exorbitant amounts of money thrown into campaign mud-slinging, which detract from more serious issues.
Already 11 states have passed resolutions calling for the ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to be overturned. Urge Congress to heed the call for reform and end corporate spending in public elections.
More money was spent by outside parties during this last presidential election than the combined total of amounts spend in 2010, 2008, 2004, 2002, and 2000. The court decisions in 2010 permitting the use of corporate treasuries to bankroll independent expenditures was the direct cause of this, and as a byproduct the campaign was filled with hostility, vitriol, and misinformation.
Voting rights are reserved to individuals, and in similar fashion, so too should the ability to make contributions and expenditures that influence the outcomes of elections be limited to individuals. Allowing the treasuries of corporations, nonprofits, unions, trade associations, and other private entities to be used in the explicit advocacy of specific candidates or parties throws open the door to a future where the value of the individual is replaced by the influence of a plutocracy.
Please ratify the amendment, “Democracy is for People,” end corporate spending in public elections, and restore the integrity and fairness of the electoral process.
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Photocredit: Kathrin Tausch via Wikimedia Commons