Read the moral, legal and historical reasons compelling American citizens to work for a 28th Amendment to reclaim the idea that all people—regardless of wealth—have a voice in our political processes, by statesman and academic Jim Leach.
A highly accomplished statesman, Jim Leach served Iowa as a Republican in the House of Representatives for more than 30 years, where, among many achievements, he chaired the Banking and Financial Services Committee and oversaw hearings on Nazi theft of money and art during the Holocaust. A decorated academic, Jim holds 14 honorary degrees and has been a professor and lecturer at both Harvard and Princeton Universities. He is a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
At the 2018 American Promise National Citizen Leadership Conference in Washington D.C., Jim shared his reasons for supporting a constitutional amendment to get money out of politics. His speech highlights the spirit of America and touches on moral, legal and historical examples to demonstrate how the current pay-to-play system erodes the essence of our great nation. Read an excerpt of his moving speech below.
“The Constitution begins ‘We the people…’ not ‘We the corporations…’ There is no more compelling case for a 28th Amendment dismantling corporate hegemony than this 3-word premise upon which our Constitution is based.
During the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, the United States sought and established principles of equal political rights for all people regardless of race and sex. Through numerous Supreme Court rulings, some of those rights have been erroneously granted to corporations, allowing corporations to claim First Amendment protections while spending millions upon millions of dollars to influence elections and politicians.
To vest an inanimate entity with constitutionally protected political rights makes mockery of our individual rights heritage. After all, a corporation, under the law, can be bought and sold. People, under the Constitution as amended in the wake of the Civil War, cannot.
Simple logic shows that corporations cannot and should not be equated to people. Doing so is bizarre and dangerous when applied to political issues.
In parallel logic, for the Court to hold that a corporation is equivalent to an individual implies that it can vote, drive a car, kick a football, read a book, eat, marry, be affectionate, etc. Inversely, it implies that an individual can be inanimate. All of which is nonsense.
Democracy is being hijacked from the people. Corporate spending continues to shift power away from citizens. Politicians work harder to raise money during campaigns than to convince the public that their ideas are best for the country.
The democratic DNA that won World War II, managed the peace that followed, sent astronauts into outer space, sparked creation of the United Nations and the Peace Corps, and led in opening trade, feeding the world, and caring for people at home and abroad is becoming harder to recognize.
But just as Americans have fought to preserve and strengthen our democracy, so too must we fight in reclaiming the idea that all people have a voice in our political processes, regardless of wealth or income.
In an era when idealism in America has come under siege, it is relevant to recall that on the greatest battleground in the bloodiest war in our history, Lincoln at Gettysburg did not affirm support for a government of, by, and for corporations. No corporations were at Little Round Top and Cemetery Ridge. The soldiers who gave their last full measure of devotion did not stand their ground to ensure that corporations could maximize profits. They sacrificed their lives to preserve a union committed to advancing justice for all Americans.”