Sensible, intelligent Americans are furious over the recent Supreme Court 5-to-4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that struck down limits on corporate spending in presidential and congressional elections. Those of us who wail against the corpocracy with its corruption of government could hardly believe that this decision could in any way be justified. A major reaction has been a number of groups calling for a constitutional amendment to fix the problem.
It helps to know that three current constitutional amendments resulted because of Supreme Court decisions that needed remedial action: the Eleventh Amendment (shoring up states’ legal immunity), the Sixteenth Amendment (authorizing a federal income tax), and the Twenty-sixth Amendment (assuring eighteen-year-olds the right to vote).
Among the current efforts MoveToAmend.org has already received nearly 50,000 signatories to support is plan, particularly: Firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.
Another active group is ReclaimDemocracy.org advocating: Corporations and other for-profit institutions are prohibited from attempting to influence the outcome of elections, legislation or government policy through the use of aggregate resources or by rewarding or repaying employees or directors to exert such influence.
Ultimate Civics, a project of Earth Island Institute, wants this: This amendment affirms that constitutional rights extend only to human persons. Corporations, partnerships, and other organization entities are not human persons and, therefore, are not entitled to constitutional protections.
Largely missing from all this attention to the need for a new constitutional amendment, however, is the recognition that Congress, already corrupted by corporate and other special interest money, is very unlikely – no, make that will surely never propose any such amendment. Nor will any congressional attempts at fixing the Supreme Court problem with legislation do what is needed. In fact, there has been an older movement to take all private money out of federal elections and go to total public financing, which would offer the benefit of opening up the US political system to competitive third party candidates. But this too has never received strong support.
What merits far more attention and support is the use of the alternative path to amending the US Constitution offered in Article V. However, the convention of state delegates option has never been used because Congress has stubbornly refused to obey this part of the Constitution, as if they have a right to pick and choose what to obey, despite the one and only requirement for an Article V convention being satisfied. Indeed, there have been some 750 applications for a convention from all 50 states, more than the two-thirds requirement. A major reason Congress has gotten away with this illegal behavior is that nearly all organized political interests on the left and right have opposed a convention. Why? Because they like their current ability to corrupt Congress through lobbying and other forms of spending and fear true reforms of our political and government system through amendments proposed by a convention, which still must be ratified by three-quarters of the states. Both ratification and the exact words in Article V prevent any wholesale rewriting of the entire Constitution.