Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) on Tuesday introduced the Democracy is for People Amendment, which seeks to overturn the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United ruling.
“What the Supreme Court did in Citizens United is to tell billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, ‘You own and control Wall Street. You own and control coal companies. You own and control oil companies,” Sanders said in a statement. “Now, for a very small percentage of your wealth, we’re going to give you the opportunity to own and control the United States government.’ That is the essence of what Citizens United is all about. That is why this disastrous decision must be reversed.”
The 2010 ruling held that limits on independent campaign spending by corporations and union violated the First Amendment. The decision paved the way for so-called Super PACs, which have allowed corporations and wealthy individuals to spend unprecedented amounts to influence elections.
The proposed amendment states that only “natural persons” can make political contributions and expenditures to influence the outcome of public elections. The amendment, if enacted, would completely bar for-profit corporations, nonprofit corporations and unions from spending money in elections.
“The Democracy is for People Amendment will stop corporations and their front groups from using their profits and dark money donations to influence our elections while reaffirming the right of the American people to elections that are fair and representatives that are accountable,” Deutch said.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) has also proposed a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling. Schiff’s amendment would give the federal government the authority to impose “reasonable content-neutral limitations” on independent political contributions and spending.
But Deutch suggested such an amendment did not do enough to reverse the negative consequences of Citizens United.
“Any constitutional amendment that simply gives Congress the option of regulating campaign finance fails to immediately achieve what the American people want, and that is a complete reversal of Citizens United and other Supreme Court decisions that have allowed corporations and the wealthy few to drown out the voices of everyday voters,” he explained in a statement.