McGovern introduces bill seeking to remove big money influence in elections

Recorder Staff
Published: 1/24/2017 10:55:41 PM

U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-Worcester, has joined with two fellow members of Congress and two senators in filing a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling that allowed corporations to fund political campaigns.

Tuesday’s re-introduction of the amendment, that would establish the right of the American people to enact state and federal law regulating spending in public elections, comes days after the seven-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case, which McGovern first sought to overturn in 2011.

Joined by Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Jamie Raskin, D-Md., along with Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., McGovern said the “Democracy for All Amendment” would help reverse the concentration of political influence by large corporations and wealthy individuals capable of spending millions of dollars in American elections.

The amendment would allow passage of state and federal laws regulating spending in elections.

“There’s too much money in our politics,” said McGovern. “It is a corrupting force. It undermines our democracy and drowns out the voices of the people.”

He said the amendment would empower Congress and state legislatures to limit spending in political campaigns in their respective states.

“Citizens United was a dreadful decision that has done great harm to our democracy. This is a way to begin to take back our country,” McGovern said.

The amendment has been introduced three times by McGovern and others. Amherst attorney John Bonifaz of the organization Free Speech For People, one of the organizations that has worked on the proposed amendment, said it received support from “an historic 54 votes” in the Senate in September 2014, although it needed two-thirds approval to advance for eventual state ratification.

The companion People’s Rights Amendment, which Bonifaz said would respond to corporate claims of having Constitutional rights, is expected to be introduced next week by McGovern, who has filed it each session since 2011, according to a congressional aide.

The Citizens United ruling held that corporations and other private entities have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited sums of money influencing the outcome of public elections. The Supreme Court’s 2014 McCutcheon ruling struck down caps limiting how much money a single donor can contribute in federal elections.

A third Supreme Court ruling, Buckley v. Valeo, established that money spent on elections is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment.

The proposed amendment has support from the public advocacy groups Common Cause, People for the American Way and American Promise and Public Citizen.

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