Democrats propose amendment to overturn Citizens United

Representatives Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) introduced the Democracy For All Amendment at the start of the 118th Congress, which would overturn legal precedents that have allowed unrestrained campaign spending and dark money to corrupt American democracy.

The Democracy for All Amendment would overturn Citizens United v. FEC – ahead of the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s January 21, 2010 decision – which allowed corporations and special interest groups to spend nearly unlimited funds on election campaigns.

It would also address the fundamental flaws underlying the Court’s reasoning in that and an entire line of cases dating back to the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision, which prevented meaningful regulation of campaign expenditures by corporations and special interest groups.

“The flow of unrestricted corporate and dark money into our elections has dangerously eroded the American people’s faith in our democracy, and in our government’s ability to deliver for them and their families. Citizens United was one of the most egregious enablers of special interest money, but it was only the latest in a long line of Supreme Court cases that opened the floodgates. To truly rein in dark money, we must amend our Constitution,” said Schiff. “The Democracy for All Amendment will close legal loopholes that wealthy megadonors, corporations, and special interest groups have exploited for far too long, and return power to the people once and for all.”

“We just witnessed the most expensive midterm cycle in our nation’s history, proving what we already know; it’s past time to eliminate the corrupting influence of special interest money in our politics. Cosponsoring the Democracy for All Amendment was one of the first legislative actions I took after being sworn in four years ago. I’m proud to co-lead this legislation in the 118th Congress and be among a growing number in Congress who are doing everything we can to overturn Citizens United and return power to the American people,” said Phillips.

“Corporations are not people and money is not speech,” said Jayapal. “In every election following Citizens United, billions of dollars of dark money have been dumped into our electoral system, giving corporations and the richest Americans outsized power and influence. It’s time to ensure our democracy works for all people by getting big money out of politics and ensuring every voter’s voice is heard.”

“The disastrous Citizens United decision has undermined our democracy and drowned out the voices of the people for long enough,” said McGovern. “Americans overwhelmingly support protecting access to abortion, preventing gun violence, and lowering health care costs—but wealthy special interests too often stand in the way of action.”

“Corporations are not people, and they shouldn’t have more of a say in our elections than everyday Americans,” said McGovern. “It is critical that we overturn the Citizens United decision to get big money out of politics.”

Schiff has re-introduced his constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United since 2013 and has been a strong proponent of fixing America’s broken campaign finance system since he was first elected in 2000, after a race that was at the time the most expensive in the history of the House of Representatives.

The first bill he cosponsored in Congress was the bipartisan McCain-Feingold Act to regulate the financing of political campaigns, which was later passed and signed into law.

Specifically, the Democracy for All Amendment would:

  • Make clear the Constitution does not restrict the ability of Congress or the states to propose reasonable, viewpoint-neutral limitations on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections;
  • Distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities, including by prohibiting the latter from spending unlimited amounts of money to influence elections;
  • Allow states to enact public campaign financing systems, which can restrict the influence of corporate or private wealth; and
  • Take further steps to protect the freedom of the press in the case of future campaign finance-related legislation.
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