Thursday, February 07, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #94 - Part 2

Good news 2: Proposed amendments to overturn Citizens United

A second bit of good news is that the movement to overturn Citizens United has taken a concrete legal form. Citizens United is that despicable SCOTUS decision that corporations are people with free speech rights to unlimited spending on elections - a decision the Court reaffirmed last June when it extended the ruling to cover state elections as well as federal ones. Ever since the original decision, people have been considering various ways to overturn it or at least mitigate the impact.

Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts has introduced into the House two Constitutional amendments to accomplish that. Cleverly, his office didn't just issue a press release - it posted them on Reddit generating a quick and enthusiastic response.

McGovern's first proposed amendment, HJ Res 20, would tackle campaign finance reform by specfically stating that Congress and the states "shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents" in their respective elections. That would enable passage of campaign finance rules that could not be overturned by even this Court.

The second proposed amendment is to my mind the more important one. It would overturn Citizens United outright but more importantly, it would do so by openly declaring that the rights protected by the Constitution are those of actual people and that, quoting the proposal, "the words people, person, or citizen as used in this Constitution do not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities."

In other words, it would specifically reject the bizarre notion that, at Witless Romney infamously put it, "corporations are people, my friend." I've talked about this before, about the fact that the idea that corporations are "legal persons" which underlay Citizens United is nonsense based not on any SCOTUS decision by on some Court clerks' description of a decision.

Actually, however, this is good-bad news because frankly, the prospects for these bills are not good. The GOPpers in the House, especially the top ranks, they love them some corporate cash and are unlikely to be interested in anything that would challenge that. That's why previous attempts along similar lines in the last Congress vanished into the black hole of the Judiciary Committee, never to be seen again. What's worse, the top Dems may be coming to the same decision as evidence mounts that the Obama campaign and a prospective Hilliary Clinton campaign may be embracing the exact massive influx of untraceable corporate money that Citizens United allowed.

Still, it is good news that some have not given up on the idea of returning some minimal level of honesty to campaign financing.


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