Jim McGovern Makes Case Against Citizens United

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case against citizens unitedCongressman James McGovern (D-Massachusetts) introduced two new amendments to the Constitution on Tuesday, in an attempt to overturn Citizens United and further Congress’s ability to regulate campaign spending. HJ Res 20 pertains to contributions and expenditures in elections and HJ Res 21, or the ‘People’s Rights’ amendment, would directly overturn Citizens United by defining “the words people, person, or citizen as used in this Constitution [to] not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities.”

HJ Res 20 would give Congress the direct authority to place limits on the raising and spending of money in federal elections, but these limits are not defined in the amendment. This includes any expenditures made in support of or in opposition to candidates, which would in turn limit the amount of money Super PACs and corporations can spend on express advocacy and issue advocacy. Since the Citizens United decision, there is no longer a limit on how much corporations, individuals or Super PACs can spend on influencing elections. Amending the Constitution is the only way for Congress to directly override the Supreme Court, as it would be forced to uphold any constitutional changes.

HJ Res 21 distinctly conveys that corporations should not be recognized as people under the Constitution and reaffirms that the rights guaranteed to people will not be infringed upon. “Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people’s rights of freedom of speech…” effectively overturning the Citizens United decision from 2010.

A constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United is not a new idea. During a Reddit AMA last year, Obama stated, “Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight [on] the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.” Similarly, the likelihood of one or both of McGovern’s bills becoming the 28th and 29th amendments to the U.S. constitution are very slim. Nevertheless, a renewed legislative debate concerning the role of corporations in elections is now at hand. As seen in the video clip McGovern argues his case against Citizens United,

“My constituents continue to express concern about the growing influence of corporations in our political discourse. They are also demanding action on campaign finance reform – because they are repulsed by the large amount of money in our campaigns. And, quite frankly, they want elected officials to spend more time on policy, on debating and deliberating on issues – and less time dialing for dollars… Our current system has been corrupted – It undermines the rights of ordinary citizens. The preamble to the Constitution is “we the people.” Let us hope this Congress doesn’t forget that.” Tweet this quote:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5IEEv4RVIc]

Opponents of such an amendment contend that defining “people’s rights” as McGovern does, will result in a loss of rights not only for corporations, but for religious institutions and political organizations as well.

A two-thirds majority vote is required in both houses to officially introduce an amendment to the constitution, a primary stumbling block to many constitutional amendments before HJ Res 20 and HJ Res 21. To become law a proposed amendment must be ratified by 38 of 50 states, a very difficult task.

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  1. Jeff Egan If no other way can pass legal muster then an amendment is a good possible solution.
  2. Cwinters Winters If I'm reading it right, it would eliminate defining a corporation or other legal entity as a person? Corporations fought to be defined as a person based on the 14th amendment back in the late 19th century!
  3. Adrian Lewis Yes, spending must be controlled !
  4. Adrian Lewis Billions and Billions for ONE election !!! Outrageous ! Must be curbed !
  5. Adrian Lewis Billions and Billions !!!! Outrageous ! This must be curbed !!!!
  6. Grace Aldridge leave our flippen constitution alone, what is wrong with you people? we have been pretty happy with everything until the dems got back in. now it is change this change that, for Gods sake give it a rest.
  7. Anthony Byrd As usual no...no..no...let's do nothing and everything will change! YES do it!!
  8. Ronald B Cadby Why would anyone want to amend the Constitution with something that should be a law, regulation or personal responsibility? Our founding fathers made constitutional amendments difficult so that all manner of mischief affecting our freedoms could not occur. There is no doubt that money should be taken out of elections and politics. No manner of 'paperwork' will cure government corruption. It'll take a major voter mindset change to correct decades of irresponsibility.
  9. Jenny Jo Made it "difficult" to prevent mischeif? What happened in the past 30 years then... even today, the bombardment of the 2nd Amendment by the population and administration still continues. The 1st amendment (at least on communication devices) is under attack by the administration, the 4th, 5th and 6th are gone under the Patriot Act coupled with the new NDAA Obama signed. Guantanamo is still open, scratch out #8... The 10th is nullified all the time by the federal government overstepping states' rights. Do I need to keep going? The answer to your first question is because people do not want any "personal responsibility" anymore. They want to control each other, and be controlled. They want the government to take care of them and tell them exactly everything to do, and outline all "truths" in the process, so they do not have to strive to find answers. It's much easier when they can look at a name, see "professor" "scientist" "doctor" etc behind it, and take it for fact without ever delving deeper. They want knowledge without learning, and goods without work. They want to be protected from everything, including themselves.. And that will be the reason they fall.
  10. Jenny Jo Then let's stop the 2 billion dollar waste of furious spending every campaign, since it "doesn't really affect the elections.." Let's stop the ability for coporations, lobbysists and anyone else to funnel billions of dollars through so many hands it's hard to track and make sure federal employees aren't being bribed or fraudulent, or stealing etc. If the money being spent doesn't do anything, there is no reason why we can't stop spending it, perhaps send it somewhere else. Your argument makes no sense. Either the money has an influence or it doesn't and is wasted, in which case, change the laws to declare any political contributions are 100% donated to a major charity to spend where it is needed.. (not a charity created by the polician to hide cashflow). Either way, the laws need and WILL be changed.. at least if a lot of us get our say in the matter.
19 comments
Jeff Egan
Jeff Egan

If no other way can pass legal muster then an amendment is a good possible solution.

Cwinters Winters
Cwinters Winters

If I'm reading it right, it would eliminate defining a corporation or other legal entity as a person? Corporations fought to be defined as a person based on the 14th amendment back in the late 19th century!

Adrian Lewis
Adrian Lewis

Billions and Billions for ONE election !!! Outrageous ! Must be curbed !

Adrian Lewis
Adrian Lewis

Billions and Billions !!!! Outrageous ! This must be curbed !!!!

Grace Aldridge
Grace Aldridge

leave our flippen constitution alone, what is wrong with you people? we have been pretty happy with everything until the dems got back in. now it is change this change that, for Gods sake give it a rest.

Anthony Byrd
Anthony Byrd

As usual no...no..no...let's do nothing and everything will change! YES do it!!

Ronald B Cadby
Ronald B Cadby

Why would anyone want to amend the Constitution with something that should be a law, regulation or personal responsibility?

Our founding fathers made constitutional amendments difficult so that all manner of mischief affecting our freedoms could not occur.

There is no doubt that money should be taken out of elections and politics. No manner of 'paperwork' will cure government corruption. It'll take a major voter mindset change to correct decades of irresponsibility.

MaryLee Belleville
MaryLee Belleville

Aaron with all due respect that is a naive assertion. The impact isn't limited to the outcome of the election. It is the 6/4/2 years in between that is the biggest impact. The time bwtween election (commonly know as governing and legislating) is spent 1) paying back the donors from the last election with pork and corporate giveaways and 2) trying to garner favor so the donors will contribute in the NEXT election. The campaign contributions are an investment and the donors are looking for ROI.

Duane Dichiara
Duane Dichiara

Amending the Constitution is certainly not the answer. We could however get rid of McCain Feingold and let the political parties (and for that matter candidates) operate on an equal footing again.

Matthew Crockett
Matthew Crockett

It's amazing how quickly the anti-Independent trolls show up to wail brainlessly that we can't use the tools the founding fathers gave us to protect this country from cynical efforts to subjugate our democracy.

For anyone to pretend patriotism while running interference for special interest groups in this manner would like if some Uncle-Tom-type had tried to defend slavery in the pre-Civil-War South.

Mary Ann Wilson Putman
Mary Ann Wilson Putman

LEAVE OUR CONSTITUTION ALONE!!!! I'm beginning to believe we have a bunch of commies in office!

Kat Bullington
Kat Bullington

hell no! as i have remarked- Let this freak of a congress change NOTHING in our Constitution.

Aaron Ki Møller
Aaron Ki Møller

Campaign spending doesn't really affect elections as much as people say. Most people either know their candidate months before any ads start or just randomly choose once they get to the poll.

Lucas Eaves
Lucas Eaves

The last real amendment to the constitution was in 1971. I am not seeing in our current political environment allowing such amendment.

Jenny Jo
Jenny Jo

Made it "difficult" to prevent mischeif? What happened in the past 30 years then... even today, the bombardment of the 2nd Amendment by the population and administration still continues. The 1st amendment (at least on communication devices) is under attack by the administration, the 4th, 5th and 6th are gone under the Patriot Act coupled with the new NDAA Obama signed. Guantanamo is still open, scratch out #8... The 10th is nullified all the time by the federal government overstepping states' rights. Do I need to keep going?

The answer to your first question is because people do not want any "personal responsibility" anymore. They want to control each other, and be controlled. They want the government to take care of them and tell them exactly everything to do, and outline all "truths" in the process, so they do not have to strive to find answers. It's much easier when they can look at a name, see "professor" "scientist" "doctor" etc behind it, and take it for fact without ever delving deeper. They want knowledge without learning, and goods without work. They want to be protected from everything, including themselves.. And that will be the reason they fall.

Jenny Jo
Jenny Jo

Then let's stop the 2 billion dollar waste of furious spending every campaign, since it "doesn't really affect the elections.." Let's stop the ability for coporations, lobbysists and anyone else to funnel billions of dollars through so many hands it's hard to track and make sure federal employees aren't being bribed or fraudulent, or stealing etc.

If the money being spent doesn't do anything, there is no reason why we can't stop spending it, perhaps send it somewhere else. Your argument makes no sense. Either the money has an influence or it doesn't and is wasted, in which case, change the laws to declare any political contributions are 100% donated to a major charity to spend where it is needed.. (not a charity created by the polician to hide cashflow). Either way, the laws need and WILL be changed.. at least if a lot of us get our say in the matter.