July 30, 2019

Feinstein, Udall, Shaheen, Senate Dems Introduce Constitutional Amendment Overturning Citizens United

Washington – Today, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) joined Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and the rest of the Senate Democratic caucus introduced the Democracy for All Amendment, a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. FEC, help get big money out of politics and put power back in the hands of the American people.

Citizens United and several other Supreme Court decisions have unleashed a flood of unlimited corporate spending in U.S. elections and opened the door for wealthy special interests to have an outsized voice in our government. These decisions have wrongfully equated money with free speech, and wrongfully determined that big, wealthy corporations have the same first amendment rights as people. The Democracy for All Amendment gives the power back to Congress and the states to set reasonable campaign finance rules and limit corporate spending in elections. The amendment would enshrine in the Constitution the right of the American people to regulate the raising and spending of funds in public elections, and curb the concentration of political influence held by the wealthiest Americans.  

“Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United opened the floodgates for super PAC spending in our elections. The Democracy for All constitutional amendment will block corporations and rich donors from buying elections to restore power and influence to the voters,” said Feinstein. 

“Thanks to Citizens United and other disastrous court decisions, our electoral system – and as a result, our democracy – have reached a crisis point,” said Udall. “Ever since the Supreme Court ruled to open the floodgates for unlimited corporate spending in our elections, secret special interest money has poured in – and drowned out the voices of the American people. And the door has opened even wider for the ultra-wealthy and well-connected to root themselves in our government and pull the levers of our democracy. Now, citizens are losing faith in our institutions because they have every reason to believe that their government no longer answers to them. It’s time to restore the power of the American people to regulate the out-of-control, secret spending in our elections, and make sure that our elections aren’t put up for sale to the highest bidder. Our Democracy for All Amendment would help unrig the system and put power back in the hands of all Americans, instead of a privileged and powerful few.”

“Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, our political system has been flooded with money from special interest groups,” said Shaheen. “We have also seen the growing influence of dark money pouring into our elections. Dark money allows secret groups with hidden agendas, even foreign actors, to influence elections without disclosing their political donations. We need only look to the 2016 presidential election to understand the lengths that foreign adversaries are willing to go to attempt to influence our elections and sow confusion in the electoral process. This legislation would help shore up our elections from these malign efforts and also reclaim the integrity of our political process by ensuring elected representatives reflect the will of the public, not special interests.”

“The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United opened the floodgates for dark money to pour into our elections and tipped the scales in favor of the ultra-wealthy and the most powerful corporations,” said Schumer. “The Democracy for All Amendment would undo the tremendous damage done by this decision. It is the best antidote to the surge of unlimited, undisclosed money that’s poisoned our politics and deepened the swamp. Senate Democrats are determined to fix a system that remains beholden to big corporations and put power back in the hands of hardworking Americans.”

The full text of the amendment.
A background summary.
Section-by-section with FAQs.

Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Ted Deutch (D-Fla.). In addition to Feinstein, Udall, Shaheen and Schumer, the Democracy for All Amendment isco-sponsored by the entire Senate Democratic Caucus: Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Angus King (I-Maine), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz).

“I was proud to preside over a hearing and lead the markup of this amendment as the chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights in 2014.  While we successfully reported the amendment out of the Judiciary Committee that year, Republicans unfortunately filibustered it on the Senate floor,” Durbin said.  “And we know why.  They benefit from a broken campaign finance system that elevates the voices of special interests and wealthy donors over the millions of Americans who are worried about health care bills, housing costs, and tuition payments.  We must continue fighting to enshrine this amendment in our Constitution and ensure that our democracy is responsive to all Americans—not just corporations and multi-millionaires.

“The Supreme Court fundamentally misapprehended the nature of money in politics, and its decision has unleashed a corruption of inaction in Washington, where elected officials fear that action on issues like gun violence or climate change will lead a super PAC to spend $20 million and end their career,” said Bennet. “We need the Democracy for All Amendment to turn the page on Citizens United and reconnect the American people with our government.”

“Since Citizens United, we’ve seen a sharp rise of secretive, unregulated money in politics. We have no idea who is spending money on campaigns and candidates, and that is profoundly troubling for our democracy,” said Smith. “This amendment will help get big money out of politics and put power back in the hands of Americans.”

“Our campaign finance system is broken and Americans are fed up with big money influencing our elections. We should be making it easier for voters to make their voices heard, not drowning them out by allowing big money to pour into our campaigns. Forcing candidates to rely on big donors, powerful corporations and lobbyists for funding fundamentally threatens our First Amendment rights. Our democracy should actually represent the people we serve, not corporations and special interests,” said Murphy.

“The American public is rightfully angry about the torrents of corporate money — including all the secret money spent by shadowy groups — that has flooded our political system since the Supreme Court’s disastrous ruling in Citizens United. In our democracy, corporations should not be treated like people and voters should know who is spending gobs of money to influence their vote. That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues in support of this constitutional amendment to end the corporate takeover of our elections by overturning the Citizens United decision. It’s time we finally end the outside influence of special interest spending that is corrupting our democracy,” said Van Hollen.

“Affordable health care or profits for drug companies?  Good schools for our kids or tax cuts for giant corporations? Real solutions to the climate crisis or more pollution robbing the next generation of their future?  If the government works for the privileged and powerful instead of for the people, we get the wrong answer every time,” said Merkley. “If we want to get serious about fixing the most pressing issues facing our nation, we need to put power back in the hands of the people—and that means overturning Citizens United.

"Corporate special interests have an out-sized voice in Washington -- we must give power back to the people," said Hassan. "Granite Staters and Americans across the political spectrum agree: we need to reduce the influence of money in politics. I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join us in working to overturn the disastrous Citizens United decision."

“Nine years ago, the Supreme Court unleashed a flood of dark money into our elections with its Citizens United decision. Since then, corporate interests have funneled millions and millions of dollars to right-wing politicians who are packing our courts with ideologically-driven conservative judges who consistently rule in favor of corporations over individual rights,” Hirono said. “Everyday Americans should get to decide how our country should be run, not wealthy corporations and a handful of partisan, conservative judges. That’s why it’s so important that we restore democratic power to the American people by enacting this amendment.”

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