Proposed 28th Amendment to the Constitution SJR 19

On June 3, 2014, a hearing was held by the Senate Judiciary’s subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights to discuss SJR 19. SJR 19 is a joint resolution, introduced by Senator Tom Udall (New Mexico), proposing a 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would allow Congress and the states to regulate the raising and spending of money in elections.

At that hearing, petitions with more than 2 million signers in support of an amendment were delivered to the subcommittee. When discussing SJR 19, Senator Udall stated that elections should be about the quality of ideas, not the size of bank accounts.

About 2 weeks later, on June 18, a debate was held and a successful vote taken to move SJR 19 from subcommittee to the full Senate Judiciary Committee. There will be debate on the resolution and a vote taken by the full Senate Judiciary Committee sometime later in July or after the Senate comes back from the August recess. If successful, which is highly likely, SJR 19 would then move to the full Senate. It is at that point where things would get difficult. You can help by calling your senators and asking them to support SJR 19.

There are some in Congress and elsewhere who claim that the amendment would “repeal the First Amendment.” That is simply not true. This amendment would do just the opposite. Senator Udall stated that the proposed amendment was about “restoring the First Amendment so it applies equally to all Americans.” He went on to say that “our access to constitutional rights and our ability to participate in the democratic process should not be based on our net worth.”

I have been given permission by Mike Badzioch (Texans United to Amend) to post the following letter that he wrote. Mike does an excellent job of refuting the claims made by those opposed to the amendment.

Contrary to those who fear the proposed amendment would repeal the First Amendment, SJRes 19 would effectively strengthen and return First Amendment rights to millions of individuals and small groups, by allowing them more equal access to media outlets for the free speech expression of their beliefs. Specifically, SJRes 19 would allow for the review and possible dismantling of the unpopular U.S. Supreme Court decisions on campaign financing in the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases that gave wealthy individuals and corporations the power to flood our elections with millions of dollars and thereby silence the majority will of “We, the People”.

Supreme Court decisions over the last 150 years have given for-profit corporations constitutional rights that were originally intended only for human beings and have allowed these ‘legal fictions’ to funnel large amounts of money to television companies, newspapers, and other advertisers and thus gave them the ability to dominate the national dialogue. These corporate ‘rights’ have, in fact, created ‘super-human’ entities with powers that far outweigh those of mortal flesh. Corporations never die, can exist in many places at one time, can consume one another, are amoral by being required to exist only to make a profit, and are not required to have allegiance to any single country. Are these characteristics ones we want in our national leaders? Corporate funding of candidates in elections and involvement in governmental decision making stifles a human-centric ‘one person one vote’ democracy. Individuals and communities become unable to financially compete and are thus more and more marginalized in determining their futures.

The McCutcheon v FEC decision earlier this year allows individuals to give over 6 million dollars to candidates per two-year election cycle. Even the pre-McCutcheon spending limit of $125,000 was greater than the median household income in America. (But even this wasn’t enough for the very wealthy!) It is quite easy to see that most Americans, myself and likely you too, no longer have an equal voice in setting the national agenda. Some call this Free Speech. But when the ability to have one’s voice heard is given to fewer and fewer people of greater and greater wealth the endpoint is clearly not the Free Speech envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

Only a constitutional amendment is able to overrule the Supreme Court. As it now stands, all legislation passed to limit corporate and big $$$ influences in our elections can simply be ruled ‘unconstitutional’. However, ultimately the power of our government resides in We, the People and the framers of the constitution gave us Article V, the power and mechanism to amend, when necessary, the United States’ guiding document. SJRes 19 is an example of Americans exercising this constitutional right and WOULD NOT repeal the First Amendment but strengthen it to protect ordinary citizens’ free speech from being inundated by the rich and powerful. SJRes 19 does not regulate money in elections directly. It does, however, allow our elected representatives to make democracy the same for all Americans because if money can buy speech then speech is not free.

Advertisements

24 responses to “Proposed 28th Amendment to the Constitution SJR 19

  1. Thanks for the updates, good to see that our dysfunctional legislative body is slowly and erratically moving in a positive direction. Perhaps the arch of history does indeed bend toward justice.

  2. Thanks for the legislative update. In a democracy, 2 million signatures should matter.

  3. Not surprising that the Dems would propose to overrule the Constitution. Note how this travesty repeats the phrase “Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press”. Could that be that the Dems don’t want to allow anyone to protest the highly-biased “reporting” by the mass media – THEIR “corporate sponsors”? Clearly, if someone does not want to watch, or follow, the advice of an ad purchased by a corporation or business entity, they don’t have to, so what is the “problem” that this so-called “Amendment” is solving? Well, the Dems are afraid of losing control, and their livlihoods, so they are desperately trying to force Americans to hear only their side of issues.

    • The Constitution has already been amended 27 times. The framers of the Constitution realized it wasn’t a perfect document almost from the beginning when they added the first 10 amendments. The Constitution was written and signed in 1787 and the first 10 amendments were added in 1791. The 11th Amendment was added in 1795 and the 12th Amendment in 1804.

      The 1st Amendment right of free speech already has limitations. It is not absolute. The courts have ruled that child pornography laws, slander and libel laws, and laws preventing yelling fire in a crowded theater are legitimate limits on free speech. Why can’t those limitations be extended to money in elections?

      There are Republicans who support an amendment to control the amount of money that is used to influence elections. When large amounts of money are used by a small number of individuals, corporations, or special interest groups to influence elections, it overpowers what others on the other side are saying. Their voices get drowned out. In addition, a lot of that money is used on attack ads that are misleading. If we want to keep our democratic Republic, all voices must be heard and all legitimate citizens allowed to vote.

      Freedom of the press was originally understood as prohibiting the government from interfering with the printing and distribution of information and opinions. That right has been protected by the courts. In 1938, Chief Justice Hughes defined “the press” as “every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion.” Besides newspapers and periodicals, this right has been extended to other forms of media, such as books, plays, and movies. The Supreme Court has yet to rule on social media. I think you and I would both agree that we don’t want the government controlling the press.

      In today’s world, with this new interpretation of “the press”, I don’t think that you can say that one side (Democrats or Republicans) have an advantage over the other. There are certainly more conservative radio talk shows than liberal ones. Fox News has more viewers than MSNBC and CNN combined. The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets are owned by Rupert Murdoch.

      There are newspapers that endorse Republicans and those that endorse Democrats. You say that the proposed amendment is not needed because the problem could be solved if people avoided watching or following the advice given in political ads. The same is true with political endorsements from newspapers. In addition, the subscription rates of newspapers has been declining over the years. Even for those that do subscribe, I wonder how many even know who the newspaper is endorsing. Newspapers may be endorsing candidates, but they aren’t putting money into political ads. As far as the major TV networks are concerned, it is against the policy of CBS, NBC and ABC to endorse candidates or put money into political ads.

  4. Anyone who has been following politics and listening to all sides of the issues, must know that corporations and big money are taking over the democratic process. Public financing and free air time for all candidates is the only fair way for the public to really hear the issues and be able to make an informed decision. This bill is a start but does not go far enough.

  5. I’m all for campaign finance reform. My problem with this joint resolution is that it is extremely vague in wording and doesn’t set a clear approach as to how they wish to achieve this so – called reform.
    Let’s really analyze what this resolution says and what scope of powers it could be interpreted as granting, because if we’re going to amend the Constitution then said amendment needs to be clear in purpose and legal intent and empowerment. This resolution is so ambiguous and accomplishes nothing but the groundwork for more bureaucracy.
    Let’s take a look. “Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections. ” Not t9 be crass, but no shit. They already have that power through something called legislation. Which is what this claims to be. You might as well say, “Congress has the power to vote on and pass bills.” And who gets to interpret “reasonable limits” or whether the contribution would “influence elections”? Well Congress probably actually a poorly regulated bureaucracy empowered by Congress or the states. I’m just guessing because it’s not in there. Pretty vague.
    Let’s look at section 2. It’s a doozy.
    “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.”
    What criteria decides what is a natural person or a corporation? That definition seems to be at the crux of this issue ie Citizens United. Should we pass another ambiguous amendment with no clear legal intent so that the same lifetime-appointed, lifetime of favors supreme court can rule on it again? When thwre is a question of intent of the law, the judicial branch interprets. It’s what they exist for. Shall we dispense with the ambiguity and hollow political posturing?
    Not to mention what’s to stop Congress or whatever bureaucratic entity from picking and choosing which political PACS are legit and which aren’t based on backroom politics and the same kind of shady contributions that exist now? Nothing. Why? Because they fail to give a concrete definition. They merely seek to empower themselves to further decide who gets to donate and how much.
    Don’t be deceived. This is a great idea and needs to happen but this resolution is so poorly framed and worded and so hollow and vague, that the caveats I pointed out CAN be abused in ways I mentioned and you better believe corrupt politicians and lobbyists WILL abuse this.
    Give us real reform or go away.

  6. Sounds like another attempt of control by BIG government. REGULATE sounds to me like another name for control. That’s all we see from DC, more attempts to regulate and control.

  7. This might all sound good to people until you really look at it. It does not say it will outright ban massive donations from corporations. It is saying congress will have the right to stop entities at their discretion. This is just to allow lifers in congress a means to put a halt on funding to their opponents and allow them to become further entrenched. I’ll leave a link to it, pay attention to the wording on this one.

    http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c113:S.J.RES.19:

  8. I will save everyone looking for it:, and wading through the strike-outs.

    Calendar No. 471

    113th CONGRESS

    2d Session

    S. J. RES. 19

    Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections.

    IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
    Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein). That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States:
    ARTICLE
    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.

    As a previous poster noted it is quite vague.
    Aristotelian Rhetoric, necessarily vague…

    Ethos:
    IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
    Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein)

    >Come on, the only thing they are experts at are filling their own pockets, and those of their buddies.No one wants to be ignored because they can’t come up with the money, and the collective crowd roars it disdain.Uh, he we are again relying on Congress to determine the facts and act in other than their primary interest…No logic here.<

    So it is even worse, failed rhetoric…
    and the crowd, now disinterested, drifts away…

  9. As a previous poster noted it is quite vague.
    Aristotelian Rhetoric, necessarily vague…

    Ethos:
    IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
    Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein)

    Come on, the only thing they are experts at are filling their own pockets, and those of their buddies.

    Pathos:
    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.

    No one wants to be ignored because they can’t come up with the money, and the collective crowd roars its disdain.

    Logos:
    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…

    Uh, here we are again relying on Congress to determine the facts and act in other than their primary interest…No logic here.<

    A little more Pathos:
    …including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.

    So it is even worse, failed rhetoric…
    and the crowd, now disinterested, drifts away…

    Leave a comment

  10. Let’s be very clear on SJR 19…….the architect of the original resolution was the deceased Democrat Senator Paul Wellstone of Minn.
    He publically stated that the intent was to “shut up the NRA (National Rifle Assoc)”.
    Wellstone was a leading Democrat in gun control legislation. He (a Democrat) was frustrated with the NRA’s ability to rally its supporters at the last minute at election time.
    So if your side cannot rally its base and your opponent can,let’s do the Democratic Party thing by passing legislation to stifle your opponent.

    • The late Senator Paul Wellstone was not the architect of this proposed amendment to the Constitution. He was the architect of the Wellstone amendment to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (McCain-Feingold). One of the things McCain-Feingold did was ban the use of money from the treasuries of unions and for-profit corporations to pay for “electioneering communications”. Electioneering communications are broadcast ads which identify a federal candidate within 30 days of a primary and 60 days of a general election. This prohibition did not apply to issue ads or any other broadcast ads which did not mention a federal candidate, or to non-broadcast ads.

      Senator Wellstone thought the same rules should apply to non-profit corporations also, like advocacy groups, since these special interest groups would still be allowed to run last minute election ads using soft money. The problem with most of these last-minute ads are that they are attack ads and often misleading. Wellstone said that non-profit corporations could still fund these last-minute ads, but they would need to set up PACs (hard money) to do so, like for-profit corporations. They couldn’t use the corporate treasury.

      Wellstone wanted this loophole to be closed for ALL special interest groups, not just the NRA. I’m not sure when you used quotes to say “shut up the NRA” that you meant to say that he actually used those words or not, but I searched the Internet and could not find evidence of that. I did find websites on the Internet where there were people arguing about whether he said them or not, but I could find no evidence to support that he did.

      I also spent several hours searching through the Congressional Record looking for the words NRA and National Rifle Association in the context of Wellstone’s amendment to McCain-Feingold and did not find “shut up the NRA”. What I did find was that while speaking on the Senate floor about his amendment to McCain-Feingold, Senator Wellstone did mention the NRA, but he mentioned it in context with other groups, such as the Sierra Club or the League of Conservation Voters (groups who advocated for issues he agreed with).

      He said that his amendment would apply to groups on the left and groups on the right, ALL special interest groups. That’s why the NAACP, the ACLU, and other liberal groups were on the same side as the NRA in their opposition to Wellstone’s amendment to McCain-Feingold. When speaking on the Senate floor about the opposition to the entire McCain-Feingold bill, Senator Feingold said that the Washington Post described the coalition against his bill as “an unusual alliance of unions, businesses, and liberal and conservative groups.” Feingold called them the “Washington gatekeepers, the major players in politics and policy in this town for whom campaign money is the currency of influence.”

      BTW, while searching the Congressional Record, I did see that there was a proposed amendment to the Constitution similar to SJR 19. The bipartisan Hollings-Specter amendment was first proposed in 1997.

  11. Moot point by way of technology and related evolution.
    Something called the internet has changed the face of voice.
    ANYONE with access to the web has access and can influence ANYONE.
    It is no longer who has enough money to buy TV ads who wins.
    The entire world of journalism is seeded by the web.
    This issue, S.J.R. 19 is about control- a valve by which the government can allow access and THAT should frighten everyone.

    I love my country
    I cannot stand the management

  12. The issue at hand is how money is used to influence votes, meaning the spending of money as paying off the costs for spreading a particular message, for who gets to keep their seat as a Congresspersons

    An effort to fix this is being crafted by these same congress persons, as of now nearly half of all senators, many of whom have had millions of dollars put into their re-election campaigns. It is being sold to us through various media, that is, organized groups with more capacity than scattered individual voters spending money to convince you it’s a good idea.

    If you can’t tell the irony in this, you don’t deserve either democracy or the illusion of it.

    • Actually, this time around, many people were upset with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Yes, we did join groups to put more pressure on Congress to support us. Citizens for Truth is a grassroots organization. It hasn’t been easy for us, and others like us, to get the support that we now have in Congress. It has been an uphill battle. It has taken us over 4 years to get to where we are today. We are beginning to see the fruits of our labors. Not much money has been spent on getting a proposed amendment, and, as far as I know, there haven’t been attack ads against certain legislators who do not support an amendment.

  13. So, if I and thousands of my neighbors want to give $10 to the NRA for them to take out an ad promoting issues we care about and in support or opposition to candidates based upon those Issues we’re muzzled but Oprah or Chris Mathews can go on the air and rant about their views to millions of listeners for an unlimited number of hours. Is that the idea, Mr. Udall? Sounds alot more like censorship and striping citizens of their 1st Amendment rights then support of it. Free Speech means Free Speech for everyone, not just the Press, Celebrities and Politicians…. and the only way most of us regular citizens have of making our voices heard outside the voting booth is to donate our money to, so called, “special interest” groups who can take those donations, bundle it together with other like minded citizens and use it to buy media time which would be far too expensive for us to buy as individuals. Too bad if you don’t like what we have to say, Mr. Udall…you don’t get to take away our right to say it. You’ve already shredded enough of the Constitution..no more.

  14. So, how do they handle folks like Michael Bloomberg or Tom Styer can use their personal fortunes to push an agenda. Where is the equality in that? I don’t have millions to put on adds as an individual. This amendment effectively biases who can buy time. It enables the rich to guide the message to their agenda. I don’t see this fixing anything, I see it as enabling an elite class to drive the agenda.

  15. Regardless of the person/group disseminating the information, regardless of the source of the monies used to forward the ‘opinion’, it all really depends on the actions of an informed and active citizenry. Given the number of single issue voters and the massive amount of people who don’t seem to give a damn, I really have to wonder if the sheep will ever wake up.

  16. Get your blinders off people. Where do you suppose ALL these politicians get their campaign funds? They’re very good at hiding the truth and this is just another way to do it!!!

  17. … What would this do to churches and other religions groups handing out pamphlets on candidates or bills to be voted on in either House or the Senate? It could be used to silence them forever. The same goes for groups like the NRA and the NRLC. This bill has so much potential for doing harm. How about real campaign finance reform such as limiting all campaign contributions to an individual basis( no more corporate contributions) and capped at $50-100? ….

    • Christopher,
      Thank you for your comment. I am in complete agreement with your suggested campaign finance plan in which candidates are supported by individuals giving $50-$100 at most. This would be a significant change and would prevent at least some of the corruption in politics. However, on your other points, I’d like to point out that you are dealing with different issues as if they were the same. Campaign finance, candidate endorsements, and communications about particular issues may be dealt with differently by the law. For example, churches are 501(c)(3) nonprofits, which means that they are tax-exempt and any donations they receive are tax-deductible by the donor. This type of organization is prohibited by its 501(c)(3) status from conducting “activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates” (this is an IRS rule, not an FEC rule; any organization can participate in political activity if it is willing to give up its charitable organization status).
      Communications about issues that do not mention candidates or parties, such as pamphlets or ads about a church’s teachings, are acceptable (click here for more info).
      The NRA, as well as similar groups, is a non-profit 501(c)(4) social welfare organization. As a result, donations to the NRA are not tax-deductible. However, the NRA has a 501(c)(3) associated with it (the NRA Foundation). Many other special interest groups have adopted this type of organization.
      I hope you will keep reading and commenting.

  18. It’s interesting that the NRA keeps coming up as an example of an organization this amendment would muzzle. Wellstone (RIP) said during the original debate over Citizens United that it was his intention to silence groups like the NRA.

    Gun control and gun rights advocates both admit the efficacy of the NRA. Gun control groups like to paint the NRA as a tool of gun manufacturers and thereby subverting the democratic process, while gun rights advocates focus on the millions of individuals for whom the NRA speaks. Clearly, gun manufacturers contribute to the NRA–but nearly half of the NRA’s revenues come from individual members, its single largest funding source.

    http://www.factcheck.org/2013/01/do-assault-weapons-sales-pay-nra-salaries/

    Furthermore, I am not convinced that “corporate personhood” undermines the democratic process or promotes corruption. Anyone can form a corporation of 1 or more members. And the existence of non-profit corporations is simply a nod from a tax perspective that some corporations exist for non-commercial purposes–social and political advocacy being two of those purposes.

    So the core issue seems to be: what is the social benefit of muzzling the NRA or any similar, openly political organization? I am not and have never been a member of the NRA, and I do not agree with the direction the NRA/ILA has taken over the past 30 years–but I have studied the issue of gun control over the same period.

    Gun control fails because it is fundamentally irrational, not because the NRA opposes it.

    The NRA has had some influence on gun control, but one cannot correlate the NRA’s opposition to gun control to gun control’s legislative failure, nor the fact that the NRA outspends gun control lobbying organizations. The reason the NRA can do this is because it is on the right side of an issue that affects more than half the adult population of the US.

    So again, what is the benefit of muzzling the NRA?

    • Of course, this whole discussion about what Senator Wellstone’s intent was is a moot issue since the Supreme Court ruled that money was speech and that his amendment and other parts of BCRA (McCain-Feingold) were unconstitutional. Now, all labor unions and corporations (both for-profit and non-profit) can use their treasury funds to spend freely on whatever ads they wish. We now can have a money war over candidates and on each side of any issue that we want. As former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said, “I had one billionaire …. and Romney had about 26. It turned out that 26 billionaires beat one.” He went on to reference the election as a billionaire fight. This is not what our founders envisioned for our country.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s