Oregon is 16th State to Call for Overturn of Citizen’s United

On this 237th birthday of our independence the revolution continues.

Today, the Oregon Legislature passed House Joint Memorial 6 (HJM 6), becoming the 16th state to call on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The bipartisan measure passed the state House by a 48-11 margin, with 14 Republican votes (the majority of state House Republicans), and the state Senate by a 17-13 margin, with one Republican, Senator Betsy Close (R-Albany), voting in favor.

Oregon joins California, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia. The Washington, D.C., Council has called for an amendment as well.

Progress- Citizen’s United Amendment Introduced in the Senate

Has it been 7 days since my last post? I usually only stretch Father’s Day to a long tequila soaked weekend but I suppose a new precedent has been set. Take that liver!

Sens. Tester and Udall each proposed amendments on Tuesday the 19th of June to address the ravages of the Citizen’s United ruling and unlimited dark money in politics.  This follows on the 15 states and the District of Columbia who have voted to support an amendment.

Tester introduced an amendment that would end corporate personhood rights, overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Tester’s measure is similar to the “People’s Rights Amendment” that Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) introduced in the House. Udall’s bill would give Congress and the states the ability to limit spending in election campaigns, similar to another McGovern bill in the House.

Money and gerrymandering are the prime culprits in the slow lingering death of American democracy.  The two not so easy steps to get us back to the experiment in democracy that started in 1776 and continued until around 1980 are

  1. declare that corporations are not people and money is not speech; and
  2. end gerrymandering by party affiliation creating safe noncompetitive seats in Congress.

I’ve talked about Item 1 until I’m, blue in the face, which goes great with my nice Tommy Hilfiger shirt and makes my blue eyes really pop (so I’m told).

Item 2 is just as important because right now all those “safe” seats mean that the holders of those seats do not have to worry about a challenge from the other party. Nope. Because their districts are set up to be predominantly populated by people from their party, all they have to fear is a primary challenge. Which means that are compelled to placate the far extremes of their party and pretty much ignore just about everybody else to keep their phony baloney jobs. That is what is driving the GOP further off the edges of the Earth.

Theoretically this mechanism should be driving the Democrats further left too.  Some would say the Blue Dog Democrat is on the endangered list because of it but that’s not true. The Blue Dogs are dying out because, for the most part, they’ve competed with Republicans by trying to our-Republican them and we all know that if the choice is between a real Repub and a fake Repub, they’re going to choose the real one. Like butter over margarine – every time.

Ideologically, at this time there just is no real true radical leftist agenda that compares with the radical right wing agenda that oozes from every aspect of the political debate. See this post for that discussion.

Amendment to Overturn Citizen’s United Continued

Illinois is the 14th state to back an amendment to limit money in politics.

Other states that have called for an amendment to overturn Citizens United are Maine, West Virginia, Colorado, Montana, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, Maryland, Vermont, New Mexico and Hawaii; so has Washington, D.C. Nearly 500 local municipalities have called for a constitutional amendment. (You can read more about them here.)

Next!?

Amending the Constitution – A Bipartisan Call to Overturn “Citizen’s United”

Earlier this month Maine became the 12th state to call for a constitutional amendment to overturn the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Maine joins West Virginia, Colorado, Montana, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, Maryland, Vermont, New Mexico and Hawaii in calling for an amendment. Washington, DC also backs the movement.

This comes less than a month after red state West Virginia enacted a similar resolution. Momentum is building and it’s bipartisan.

the Maine State Senate voted 25-9 for the resolution, five Republicans joined with nineteen Democrats and independent Senator Richard Woodbury to “call upon each Member of the Maine Congressional Delegation to actively support and promote in Congress an amendmentto the United States Constitution on campaign finance.”

Money is not speech and corporations are not people. Those nine words added to the constitution would change everything. 

For the record what was the last amendment to the constitution enacted?  The 27th.

AMENDMENT XXVII

Originally proposed Sept. 25, 1789. Ratified May 7, 1992.

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened.

Have to look into this one.  I thought it was expanding the vote to 18-20 year-olds but that was the 26th amendment in 1971.  Bottom line it’s only been 21 years since the last amendment. I think most people would be surprised at that.  I was.

The Constitution is not a Suicide Pact – Part II

I’m reminded this morning, listening to Pete Dominick on Sirius 104, that another suicide pact issue is the free speech/campaign finance law conundrum.  Maybe it’s not really a conundrum, the rest of the world doesn’t treat it that way, only so-called free speech absolutists, like the Fab 5 on the Supreme Court, who actually find that free-speech is really quite limitable for poor people, just not for rich people.

Constitutional law professor Erich Segal commented, often, that the Citizen’s United decision is a “unique” view of campaign finance limits.  Perhaps he also meant that the equation of money and speech itself is unique. It’s all so unique and HORRIBLE FOR DEMOCRACY!  The execrable Will Cain was arguing in favor of free speech for all (businesses) with his usual libertarian nonsense (miming a jacking off motion) that takes a theoretical approach to aspects of life that do not require theoretical approaches.  We live here in the actual 3D real world – we have long historical experience with money corrupting politics, ALWAYS!  We have empirical evidence that the Citizen’s United system is just legalized bribery in which the people with the money to spend on campaigns have all the access to the politicians as well as the means to buy and hijack media.  We can study the history of the Copper Kings, the trusts, the selling of Senate seats before the 17th amendment, etc, etc. etc.  We don’t need theories.

And it’s so transparent because nobody who advocates for the confluence of money and speech believes that you can shout “fire” in a crowd.  They intellectually believe that society has an interest in limiting speech in the case of libel and fraud and other uses of speech that are clearly deleterious to life, limb and especially money.  But rich people should not have their “speech” limited by law.  They earned it and they know better.

That’s where this really comes from.  It’s not at all an effort to defend the 1st amendment from those who would sacrifice it for squishy, granola eating “good government” reasons. It’s a continuation of the old Federalist aristocracy-centered government when people believed that the men with money should have more say about things because they clearly knew more and God had smiled on them.  

Because in a real democracy Joe Shmoe with $20,000 in the bank should have as much ability and right to run for office as Thurston Howell III.  But as we all know, when Joe Shmoe walks into a party office and they ask him how he would finance his campaign and he says “Well I’ve got $20,000 but people like me and Ill work really hard to shake every hand and kiss every baby” he would have his posterior kicked out of the office right after he said “$20,000”.  Meanwhile across town billionaire Thurston, despite being a low grade moron, will have been recruited to run for office so that they can use his check book to win a seat. 

To think that the 1st amendment means that we have to just throw our hands up in the air and say “what are you going to do?” and shuffle away from addressing the problems in our democracy is insane.  Or as Will Cain said this morning “the answer is always more speech.” Which oddly enough is also the NRA’s answer to violence:  more guns!.  

Citizen’s United and NRA – Obstacle is the Same Belief in Unfettered Rights and MONEY

The 1st amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The 2nd Amendment states:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The frustration progressives have found in the age of Citizen’s United and since Newtown, to restore previously enacted and popularly accepted limits on the 1st amendment (money in politics) and the 2nd amendment (firepower/gun control) both come back to conservative lawmakers, media and their constituents having recently adopted an antagonistic stance towards common sense restrictions on each.

In each case we also know that such antagonistic stances derive from the cynical moneyed interests behind the dissemination of talking points against unfettered rights.  The Chamber of Commerce, Koch Brothers, massive business interests et al. and their hold on conservative think thanks (Heritage, Cato, Manhattan, etc.) and jurists’ conclaves (the Federalist Society) are the only parties arguing that campaign finance limits are unconstitutional abridgments of the 1st amendment – that we should accept that money is speech and political speech cannot be abridged even if it’s in society’s benefit to do so.  

Likewise, the gun manufacturers and their influence on lawmakers, through the NRA, keeps us from passing more stringent restrictions on fire power, ammunition and the trafficking of same, even if it saves lives.  What John McCain essentially said on President’s Day at a townhall meeting to the parent of an Aurora victim was that the rights of citizens to buy guns supersedes the rights of citizens to life.

Since the straw the broke the camel’s back that was the Sandy Hook tragedy we’ve finally been engaged in an extended debate over firepower/gun restrictions. What the Supreme Court has always said, even the current, extremely conservative Roberts court in Heller, is that there are, of course, reasonable restrictions that are not only allowable, but in society’s best interests.  None of what is on the table since Newtown should be or presumed would be found unconstitutional, and yet you can’t sell it to 2nd amendment absolutists.  

Likewise, the 1st amendment guarantee of free speech has also been found to be reasonably restricted, for the sake of society.

But what laws can pass muster with the courts seems to be less of issue today than what will be enacted by legislatures. Specifically, conservative lawmakers and their constituents have adopted a fairly recently found position on each of these enumerated rights that makes them antagonistic towards common sense prohibitions.  The lawmakers have either bought into right wing think tank propaganda, been bought outright or cowed by their deranged tea party constituents into standing athwart against these sensible restrictions.

One of the most famous constructions in constitutional law is the idea that the “constitution is not a suicide pact.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Constitution_is_not_a_suicide_pact) But strict constructionists are denying that the negatives for society, ie., a government by the plutocrats and thousands of gun deaths a year are worth sullying the constitution for.

Many of the arguments against further fire power/gun restrictions are nonsensical  – that citizens are entitled to assault weapons in order to keep the government at bay is ridiculous on its face. The government has apache helicopters, RPGs, fully automatic weapons! These same activists arguing not to ban high powered semi-automatic weapons and high capacity magazines are not arguing they should be allowed to have fully automatic weapons and tanks!  Society already says, overwhelmingly, that it’s in our best interest for people not to be able to legally purchase many weapons of war. The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban tried to restrict the kinds of weapons used in Aurora and Newtown, and it was partially successful, but partially unsuccessful because of too many loop holes that manufacturers were able to get around. Hopefully, the lessons learned from that legislation would inform the new bills. 

In almost every case today the most vociferous argument from the right is the “slippery slope.” They cannot argue against the instant restriction, so they argue about where it will lead.  In the case of guns the debate is entirely about scare tactics and nonsensical warnings about “Obama taking your guns.”  There is no and has never been any truth to this.  But the NRA and the conservative media whip it up and weak spined legislators live in fear of backlash.  It never satisfies these people to say “see and watch, nobody is coming for your guns, give it a year and if it’s not as we say we’ll repeal it.” The vitriol and mistrust is too great to overcome by rational debate.

It’s perhaps harder to do anything about money in politics even though this issue infects every other issue in our democracy.  Even with the outrage that was the 2012 election and the crazy spending done by Super Pacs and anonymous dark money, there’s no way that popular outrage can be militated against political spending in the way that dead 6 year-olds can make average citizens say “enough is enough.” However, polls show that Americans do understand the issues regarding political money and want restrictions. In an October 2012 poll 84% agreed that “corporate money drowns out the voices of ordinary people.” The problem is the only answer to Citizen’s United is an amendment to the Constitution and that seems such a slog even though we passed the 27th amendment just 21 years ago (Limited Changes to Congressional Pay ratified 5/7/1992) and the 16th through 27th amendments were all passed in the last 100 years.  

Maybe its the failure of the ERA (and yeah, we still don’t have constitutionally guaranteed equal rights for females in 2013), that makes us believe that it’s not possible to pass a 28th amendment that says:  

Section 1. [Artificial Entities Such as Corporations Do Not Have Constitutional Rights]

The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.

Artificial entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.

The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.

Section 2. [Money is Not Free Speech]

Federal, State, and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of their money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.

Federal, State, and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.

The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.

This is the entire text of the proposed 28th amendment introduced by Rick Nolan (D-MN) on February 14, 2013.  It’s called the “We the People Amendment” and pass it we must to get our democracy back.  Sign the petition, call your Congressman, write letters to the editor and get the word out about Move to Amend’s action to pass the 28th amendment and change everything. 

https://movetoamend.org/wethepeopleamendment