Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a constitutional amendment to the U.S. Senate on Thursday that would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United ruling.
The decision held that corporations have the same First Amendment rights as people, and that political spending was free speech. The ruling allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections, so long as their actions were not directly coordinated with a candidate’s campaign.
“There comes a time when an issue is so important that the only way to address it is by a constitutional amendment,” Sanders said.
He had previously described the Citizen United ruling as “basically insane.”
“Nobody that I know thinks that Exxon Mobil is a person,” Sanders said in November.
The Saving American Democracy Amendment would state that corporations are not entitled to the same constitutional rights as people. It would also ban corporate campaign donations to candidates, and give Congress and the states broad authority to regulate spending in elections.
“The dominance of corporations in Washington has imperiled the economic security of the American people and left our citizens profoundly disenchanted with our democracy,” said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), who has introduced a companion measure in the U.S. House.
“I look forward to working with Sen. Sanders to save American democracy by banning all corporate spending in our elections and cracking down on secret front groups using anonymous corporate cash to undermine the public interest.”
The amendment comes only days after the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to support a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment that would assert that corporations are not entitled to constitutional rights.
“Sen. Sanders’ amendment returns us to shared understandings that democracy is for people,” said Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen.
The amendment would not dictate any specific policies or regulations, Udall said, so that it could garner some support from Republicans, who have blocked attempts to overturn the ruling in the past.
Democrats had previously attempted to pass a law — the DISCLOSE Act — to mitigate the effects of Citizens United, but it was opposed by conservatives and failed to clear Congress thanks to a Republican filibuster.
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