Friday, January 6, 2012

The "Saving American Democracy" Amendment

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has proposed legislation to pass a Constitutional amendment to address the problem of huge money sources in electoral politics. A complete copy of the amendment can be found here.
At his site, Bernie Sanders says that his amendment would stipulate that:
  1. Corporations are not persons with constitutional rights equal to real people.
  2. Corporations are subject to regulation by the people.
  3. Corporations may not make campaign contributions or any election expenditures.
  4. Congress and states have the power to regulate campaign finances.
However, this amendment and others like it, would only undo the Citizens United ruling and leave political corruption at the same unacceptable level it was at before the Supreme Court weighed in with its opinion.  My major problems with this legislation lie in the following:
  1. It is primarily aimed only at reversing the Citizens United ruling.
  2. It restricts only for-profit corporations and limited liability entities, but not non-profit organizations
  3. It would not get money out of politics.
  4. Rather, it would just get for-profit entities out of elections..
  5. It says that corporations would be subject to regulation by the people, but provides for this to be done through their elected representatives. This doesn't even seem to be a change.
  6. When it comes to not making “campaign contributions or any election expenditures, I can see the possibility of loopholes that corporations could use to get around this provision.
  7. The amendment leaves it up to Congress and the states to pass legislation to enact this amendment. They already have the power to do this. We've seen what they have done thus far, and, while they might be convinced to pass an amendment to reverse the Citizens United ruling, it is not likely that they will enact any major controls on other gifts of money, goods, or services.
This particular amendment appears to be somewhat like tossing a bone to a barking dog just to quiet him and keep him from attacking. If it also distracts the public from the fact that it doesn't even address the issue of getting money out of politics, all the better for the politicians. There is no mention of restricting lobbying, so lobbyists could still feel free to contribute money, goods, or services and bill them to the corporations they represent as business expenses or bury the in their consulting fees.
In my opinion, this is just a baby step in the right direction, when we urgently need a giant leap.

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