Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) introduced a constitutional amendment to the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday that would overturn a key provision in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
Three other constitutional amendments have been introduced to Congress this year that target the controversial ruling, which held that corporations had 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.
Yarmuth's amendment, which was introduced alongside Republican Congressman Walter Jones (NC), would establish that financial expenditures and in-kind contributions do not qualify as protected speech under the First Amendment. It would also direct Congress to set up a public financing system to serve as the sole source of funding for federal elections.
“Corporate money equals influence, not free speech,” Yarmuth said. “The last thing Congress needs is more corporate candidates who don’t answer to the American people. Until we get big money out of politics, we will never be able to responsibly address the major issues facing American families – and that starts by ensuring our elections and elected officials cannot be bought by the well-off and well-connected.”
“If we want to change Washington and return power to the citizens of this nation, we have to change the way campaigns are financed,” Jones said. “The status quo is dominated by deep-pocketed special interests, and that’s simply unacceptable to the American people.”
In early December, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a constitutional amendment to the U.S. Senate that would ban corporate campaign donations to candidates, and give Congress and the states broad authority to regulate spending in elections.
His amendment followed another one proposed by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) in late November, the "Occupy Wall Street" inspired OCCUPIED amendment. It would also outlaw corporate money in politics and end so-called "corporate personhood."
Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Michael Bennet of (D-CO) have also introduced a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United by granting Congress and the states the authority to regulate the campaign finance system.
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.
Photo credit: House Committee On Education And The Workforce