With the first day of the 116th Congress comes the introduction of the “Democracy for All Amendment,” which aims to overturn Citizens United.
Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission was a Supreme Court case decided in 2010, through which the Court applied the First Amendment right of free speech towards nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions and other associations in declaring independent expenditures by these entities in political campaign finance constitutional. To put it simply, corporations were given the political spending power that individuals enjoy. Following the ruling, however, the case has been highly controversial due to the rise of super PACs—groups that can receive unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations due to the fact that they don’t actually make direct contributions to candidates—and the immense rise in money funneled into campaign finance.
The new bipartisan bill was introduced by congressmen Ted Deutch, Jim McGovern, Jamie Raskin and John Katko to “get big money out of politics and restore democratic power to the American people,” according to a statement on Deutch’s website. The bill aims to give more power to the federal government and state governments in regulating campaign finance, allowing them to set raising and spending limits (and to distinguish between “natural persons” and “artificial entities,” a.k.a. corporations, in doing so), and enforce these limits accordingly.
“In Citizens United, five Supreme Court Justices overturned two centuries of jurisprudence to determine that private corporations enjoy the political free speech rights of the people,” said Raskin in a statement. “As hundreds of millions of dollars in dark money are spent by CEOs in the name of their unwitting shareholders, we are seeing what Court-ordered plutocracy looks like. But the democracy is stirring. As the exciting 116th Congress convenes, it’s time we remind America of what popular government looks like—that’s why I’m proud to support this bipartisan Amendment to rebuild the wall of separation between massive private corporations and the people’s public elections.”
“Let’s not mince words here – for too long, the needs of the American people have taken a backseat to the needs of corporations that dump unlimited amounts of money into political campaigns,” said McGovern. “From gun violence to healthcare costs to climate change, the issues Americans care about have been held hostage by wealthy special interests. No more.
“Meaningful political participation cannot be reserved for individuals with extreme wealth and special interests, and we cannot continue to allow those who spend the most to dictate public policy that is out of step with our country,” said Deutch. “From climate change to gun violence, the issues that are most important to the American people are dominated by the will of the bottomless pockets that fund elections rather than the will of voters. We need to overturn Citizens United to get big money out of politics, strengthen our democracy, and restore power to the American people.”
For more information on the bill, check out the FAQ here.