June 27, 2012 —
The bar to pass a constitutional amendment in the United States is very high; the amendment must be approved by a two-thirds majority in the House and the Senate, and must be adopted by 38 of the 50 states.
There is a movement to pass a constitutional amendment to counter the impacts of the 2010 Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, which allows corporations to spend nearly unlimited amounts of money to influence the outcomes of national and local elections.
The movement put in an appearance at the Sullivan County Legislature on June 21 in the form of about seven members of MoveOn Sullivan County, who appeared in order to ask county legislators to pass a resolution in support of the amendment.
A draft resolution presented to the board specified that “a corporation is not a person and can be regulated, and money is not speech and can be regulated,” two legal constructs that run counter to the way the courts have interpreted law in the United States.
Several members of MoveOn spoke. Kathy Aberman said, “James Bopp, the lawyer who represented Citizens United in the Supreme Court case, was breathtakingly candid in his discussion of money in politics when Terry Gross interviewed him on the radio program Fresh Air late last winter. When Terry asked him if he thought there was too much money in politics, this is what he said: ‘No, individual contribution limits are way too low. You can’t even buy a Democrat congressman for $2,500. It takes $99,000 in cold hard cash to buy a Democrat.’ He added that the lowest amount to buy a Republican was about $140,000.”
Mary Ann Burke read a statement from Padma Dyvine, saying, “In January 2010, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Steven said, ‘Corporations have no consciences, beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their personhood often serves as a useful legal fiction, but they are not themselves members of we the people, by whom and for whom our constitution was established.’”
Robert Dorn said, “Van Jones says in his book “Rebuild the Dream” that more than 90 percent of the time, the candidate who spends the most money on his or her campaign winds up the winner.” Jones also said, “Incumbents in the House need to raise roughly $10,000 each week, beginning the day they are elected. How can we possibly think that anyone is paying attention to their constituents and the people when they constantly have to raise cash from the day they are elected?”
It’s not clear if a majority of the Sullivan County Legislature will vote in favor of a resolution to support the proposed constitutional amendment, but some of them have already announced their support. Among those is lawmaker Cora Edwards, who said, “I’m a 100% supporter of grassroots activism, and this particular resolution is at an important time because we have a November election coming up, and I have seen what happens when groups of people start to put petitions together. It’s important that we show that we think corporations should not be able to spend unlimited funds on national or local campaigns.”
Some 200 local governments and five state assemblies have endorsed the proposed constitutional amendment, as has the U.S. Conference of Mayors.