Breaking down a few top reasons why a constitutional amendment is the most effective way to get money out of politics.
Across the country, Americans are fed up with the influence of big money in politics. Wealthy special interests, unions and corporations dictate much of the national agenda and help fund election efforts for politicians that play nice with them. This problem transcends party affiliation. Front groups and dark money are well-documented on all sides of the aisle. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Democratic Governors Association and the Republican Governors Association have funneled a combined $700 million of special interest money into our elections in recent years. It’s time this changed.
Since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, wealthy corporations, unions and other entities have been allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money on political broadcasting. The Court equated money with speech, meaning that the more wealth a group or individual has, the more valuable its speech is.
The American Promise is a cross-partisan organization with the goal of passing a 28th amendment to the Constitution that would allow Congress and the states to place common-sense limits on campaign financing. Such an amendment will level the playing field, so the wealthy few do not have more say in how our country runs than everyone else. An amendment is the most effective way to get money out of politics for many reasons. Here are the top three.
- AMERICANS WANT IT, NO MATTER THEIR POLITICAL PARTY.
According to a study released by the University of Maryland this month, 75 percent of Americans support a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress and the states to set limits on campaign contributions, including 66 percent of republicans, 85 percent of democrats and 70 percent of independents.
Additionally, 19 states have already called on Congress to propose such an amendment—half of the 38 states needed to ratify the constitution. More than 800 cities and towns have also sent resolutions to Congress.
Support for the 28th is growing as more awareness to the issue and to the possibility of such an amendment is raised. Americans want politicians to listen to the people—not to big money. Continuing to grow support requires grassroots action in every state.
- WE’VE DONE THIS BEFORE.
American citizens have come together to shift the course of our democracy via constitutional amendments many times. Using an amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling would not be the first time an amendment has overruled a Supreme Court decision—it would be the eighth. Of the 27 current amendments to the Constitution, seven of them overturned Supreme Court rulings. Notably, many of these amendments rectified discriminatory policies supported by Supreme Court rulings, including abolishing slavery, giving women the right to vote, lowering the voting age to match the military draft age of 18, and eliminating the poll tax, which effectively barred many poor and minority people from voting. The 28th would help abolish another form of discrimination—giving more political power to the wealthy than other American citizens.
“Every generation of Americans has used the Constitutional amendment process to overturn the court and renew the American promise,” Jeff Clements, President of American Promise, writes in a HuffPost column.
The Supreme Court’s duty is to interpret the Constitution as it is written. The most effective way for the people to overturn a Supreme Court decision is not to change the Justices’ interpretation, but rather to change the Constitution itself.
“We amended the Constitution 12 times in the 20th century, and we can do it again now,” Clements writes.
- IT’S A LONG-TERM SOLUTION.
Laws have been proposed across the nation to address elements of campaign finance reform, including transparency efforts and campaign contribution limits. But even if these proposals were written into law, they could be overturned easily. In contrast, an amendment cannot be so easily replaced.
When an amendment secures a two-thirds majority vote of the House and Senate or is requested by two-thirds of the state legislatures, it is sent to the states for ratification. If three-quarters of the states ratify an amendment, it becomes law under the Constitution.
An additional amendment would be needed to overturn the 28th. Only one amendment has ever been overturned (the 18th amendment establishing the prohibition of alcohol was overturned by the 21st amendment when prohibition became widely unpopular). Given the widespread support for establishing the 28th amendment and for getting money out of politics, such a situation is highly unlikely.
EASY WAYS TO JOIN IN
American Promise offers citizens a number of opportunities to support the 28th amendment. Consider donating time, money or both; signing the petition; joining or starting your local American Promise Association; or calling on candidates and elected representatives to sign the Candidate Pledge.
Together, we can reclaim our democracy and take back the American Promise of human liberty, equal citizenship, and government by the people.