Table of Contents
- About the Amendment
- Talking Points
- Ways to Get Involved
On September 8, 2014, the Senate voted on the Democracy for All Amendment, a proposal that would overturn decisions like Citizens United v. FEC and reclaim our political system for “We, the People.” The idea behind the amendment was simple: Congress and the states should once again be able to set reasonable limits on money in elections so that all people can meaningfully participate in our democracy.
Unfortunately, because of a series of damaging Supreme Court decisions, today our elected representatives do not have that ability. The Citizens United v. FEC decision in 2010 opened the door to unlimited corporate political spending and struck down the laws that prohibited such spending. The 2014 McCutcheon v. FEC decision said that the wealthiest individuals in our country can contribute even more money to political candidates and party committees – striking down the aggregate limits that had capped individuals’ campaign contributions during a single election cycle.
The effects of these and other decisions have not been hard to see. The 2012 election was the most expensive election in our country’s history. In that election, almost 60 percent of super PAC donations came from just 159 donors. Over 93 percent came from 3,318 donors, or 0.0011 percent of the US population. And the influx of money into our elections only continues to get worse. A report released in late July shows that in this year’s elections, “dark money” spending is fifteen times what it was at this point in the 2010 midterm elections. As money pours into our political system, the voices of everyday Americans – who don’t have a corporate treasury to spend from or millions in their bank accounts – are becoming increasingly hard to hear.
While a majority of Senators voted in favor of the Democracy for All Amendment, it did not receive the votes necessary to pass. But we came closer than every before, and we're not giving up. We have a chance to take our democracy back from corporations and billionaires. There is tremendous grassroots momentum backing this effort. Sixteen states, more than 550 cities and towns, and millions of Americans have called for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics.
Political ads paid for by corporate bank accounts and wealthy billionaires should not be allowed to drown out the voices and opinions of ordinary Americans. Americans deserve a real democracy, where meaningful participation in our political system isn’t only for the rich and powerful. We have to work together to put our elections back into the hands of the people.
And we can’t do it without you. In this toolkit, you will find many ways you can get involved in the movement to amend our Constitution to get big money out of politics. From writing letters to the editor to calling your representative to hosting an event, we need your voice in the fight to reclaim our democracy.
The Democracy for All constitutional amendment (S.J. Res 19 and H.J. Res 119) restores the ability of Congress and state legislatures to regulate the raising and spending of money in elections. It overturns misguided Supreme Court decisions, including Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC that threaten the integrity of our democracy. These Supreme Court decisions together have created a system in which outside interests can spend unlimited amounts of money on political elections with little to no transparency or accountability. This has allowed wealthy and powerful corporations and individuals to purchase outsized influence in our political process.
Section 1 –
“To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.”
Section 2 –
“Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.”
Section 3 –
“Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.”
The Senate version of the amendment, S.J. Res 19, currently has the support of 50 senators and will be voted on by the full Senate floor in September. In order for a constitutional amendment to be signed into law, it needs to pass with a two-thirds majority in Congress, and then be ratified by three-quarters of the states. This is a big lift, but a growing movement around the issue of money in politics has begun to form and will continue pushing for reform for the years to come. In many ways, the upcoming Senate vote is just a beginning.
The House version of the resolution, H. J. Res 119, currently has 118 supporters. While there is no vote currently scheduled in the House of Representatives, People For the American Way will work with allies to reach out and encourage as many members of the House as possible to show their support by co-sponsoring the amendment. For a complete list of co-sponsors visit: http://united4thepeople.org/endorsers.html
- Americans of all political and ideological stripes agree: moneyed interests have overwhelmed the political process. This trend has been decades in the making, but the Supreme Court has made the problem exponentially worse through its recent decisions in Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC, which further dismantled what’s left of our country’s campaign finance laws. These and other damaging Supreme Court decisions have left Congress and the states constitutionally prohibited from putting commonsense limits on the raising and spending of money on elections.
- Providing legislators the ability to set reasonable limits on campaign spending is a commonsense measure that most Americans believe in, but a narrow majority of the Supreme Court has taken the unprecedented step of stripping away that authority. The amendment simply restores this ability back to Congress and the States.
- In today’s elections, the voices of wealthy special interests are able to overpower the voices of everyday Americans. Corporations and the super-rich can now spend a limitless amount of money to influence our elections and set the political agenda. From 2008 to 2012, outside spending increased roughly 245 percent in presidential elections, 662 percent in House elections, and 1,338 percent in Senate elections. And with a total of more than $6 billion spent on the 2012 federal elections, wealthy special interests have more political power now than at any time in recent American history. According to a recent academic study the United States is now more of an oligarchy than a democracy, with corporations and the wealthy influencing critical policy decisions, not every day Americans.
- The American people are losing faith in our political system. More than seven in ten voters believe our country’s election system is “biased in favor of the candidate with the most money.” They also want to see real change. More than nine in ten believe it is mportant for “our elected leaders [to] reduce the influence of money in political elections.”
- While there are a range of solutions that would help fix this problem, there are only two ways to sustainably address the root problem created by the Supreme Court’s harmful decisions. We must either change who sits on the Supreme Court, or we must amend the Constitution to overturn these decisions. We need a constitutional amendment to restore the First Amendment’s contribution to a government whose laws, as Justice Breyer said in his McCutcheon dissent, reflect the people’s “thoughts, views, ideas, and sentiments.”
- Constitutional amendments are warranted in only the rarest of circumstances, but this is one of those moments in our country’s history. The very foundation of our democracy is at risk.
- There is broad, cross-partisan support for a constitutional amendment. A new poll released in July 2014 found that nearly three in four voters (73 percent) support an amendment to overturn Citizens United. In addition, nearly 200 members of Congress, 16 states, more than 550 cities and towns, and even our nation’s president are already on record in support of an amendment.
- Supporting a constitutional amendment to get big money out of elections is not only good for our democracy, it’s good politics. Recent polling found that political candidates’ support of an amendment can help win favor among voters. The reverse is also true: voters report having serious concerns when they learn of a candidate’s support for the Citizens United decision.