28th Amendment Gains Cross-Partisan Support in Congress

Constitutional Amendment Empowers Americans To Have Reasonable Limits on Money in Elections To Combat Corruption, Secure Equal Rights of All Citizens

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On the first day of the 116th Congress, a cross-partisan group of House members introduced a proposed Constitutional amendment to combat corruption, empower voters over donors, and secure the equal rights of Americans to effective representations and participation in self-government. American Promise worked closely with lead sponsors of the proposed amendment, Congressmen Ted Deutch (D-FL), John Katko (R-NY), Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD).

The Democracy for All Amendment affirms the right of Americans to enact in our communities, states and Congress laws to regulate spending in elections, reversing the concentration of political influence held by the wealthiest Americans, large corporations, big unions and special interests that have spent billions of dollars in recent elections. This amendment will guarantee and help deliver on the most important right American citizens have in our political system—the equal right of every American to representation, regardless of wealth.

What does this amendment do? The text of the Amendment—designated as H.J. Res. 2—states:

Section I. 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 II. 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 III. Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.

As with most Constitutional language, these simple words carry big meaning and impact. Here are the highlights.

  • Section one secures “political equality” of Americans. This means the equal rights of all Americans to free speech, voting, representation, etc. are protected—not giving undue influence to those with enough money to fund a SuperPAC, or representation only to those who can afford the billion-dollar game. Previously, a set of Supreme Court decisions have decreed that Americans have no political equality because those with millions of dollars to influence election and policy outcomes have an unfettered “free speech” right to do so, no matter the damage to other Americans' rights or the nation’s interests.
  • Section one also protects the “integrity of government and elections.” These words have big impact because they enable Americans to end systemic corruption where powerful, wealthy interests defeat, undermine or buy federal, state and local laws to serve themselves, at the costs of the country, our communities and people.
  • Section two distinguishes “between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.” This amendment would mark the first time the word “corporation” is used in the Constitution, and it is to make clear that corporations do not have the inalienable, fundamental rights of human beings under the Constitution, and that Americans can enact election laws that distinguish between human beings and corporations.

    Read the amendment FAQ.

Why is this amendment so important?

Thanks to the efforts of hundreds of thousands of Americans working together under the American Promise campaign, this is the first time since the Supreme Court struck down the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in Citizens United v. FEC that a Constitutional amendment has been introduced with cross-partisan lead sponsors working together. This is a turning point in the drive to win passage of the 28th Amendment, which will require cross-partisan support of ⅔ of the Congress and ratification in ¾ of the states.

A Constitutional amendment cannot fix everything about our damaged democracy, but an amendment is the urgently needed foundation for much-needed reform. We cannot build successful republican government on a system where money, rather than citizenship, decides who has a political voice and who does not. The 28th Amendment locks in foundational principles for all time that provide the conditions for successful democracy: anti-corruption; equal rights; and representation of people, not monied interests.

We worked closely with Republican sponsor Congressman John Katko (R-NY) and Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL) to come together with Congressmen McGovern and Raskin in introducing this proposed Constitutional amendment. As Congressman Katko says, “I have long supported a constitutional amendment to reform our campaign finance system and firmly believe that we must take a bipartisan approach to make this happen. I’m proud to join Rep. Deutch and a number of my colleagues in reintroducing this legislation today, as we take the first step in the new Congress toward real reform.” Moreover, Congressman McGovern is Chair of the powerful Rules Committee in the House, and Congressman Raskin, also a Constitutional law professor, joins Congressman Deutch on the House Judiciary Committee.

Is this language for the 28th Amendment final?

No. The Democracy for All Amendment is a strong and effective Constitutional amendment to address many of the problems created by the Supreme Court’s radical and misguided experiment in mandating unlimited money in elections. Other amendment approaches have been and will be proposed in Congress, and deliberation in Congress and around the nation will continue to make sure the best, most-effective amendment language passes Congress and is promptly ratified in the states. To follow or get involved in this process, please see American Promise’s Writing the 28th Amendment program.

How does this Amendment relate to HR1?

On the same day that the proposed 28th Amendment was introduced, the new Democratic majority in the House introduced HR1, comprehensive legislation that includes big and compelling reforms that will advance voting rights, campaign finance rules, election integrity, fair districting, ethics and anti-corruption laws, and more. American Promise worked with Congressional leadership on Section 5001 of HR 1, which contains Congressional findings in support of the Constitutional amendment to address the domination of money in our political system.

American Promise applauds the bold vision and strong reforms in HR1. American Promise members support many of these reforms, which help build the entire “house” of American democracy that can stand on a strong Constitutional foundation. As we know, a house divided cannot stand, and American Promise urges all Americans—including members of Congress—to work together to build the reforms America urgently needs.

What happens next?

We expect the Constitutional amendment proposal to have significant hearings in the House Judiciary Committee later this session, and we will be involved in ensuring a favorable vote by the Committee, and a significant majority vote on the floor of the House. A companion amendment proposal has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Tom Udall and Michael Bennett, and we will work to seek cross-partisan support there as well. But we need all Americans in this fight.

Constitutional amendments create the foundation for core American principles necessary for democracy and effective self-government. Amendments gave us the Bill of Rights, the end of slavery, equal protection of the laws, voting rights for women and all Americans of every race, term limits for Presidents and so much more. But they only happen with hard work of American citizens all over the country.

American Promise is empowering, organizing and unifying Americans in every state to win this historic reform now.