Two blows for liberty and against corruption and the corporate capture of elected politics

Real Americans in Washington and California sharply rebuke the radical Supreme Court corporatists who “conservatively” highjacked a case, laughed at “stare decisis,” and went far beyond the case at hand to overturn a century-old ban on corporate spending in political campaigns — The two states join Montana, and Colorado as states where voters have demanded reversal of Citizens United; Similar calls passed by Legislatures in 12 states, including Oregon and Illinois.

Picture

In a landslide, Washington State voters strongly backed a measure that, practically, does nothing but is symbolically powerful anyway. And since politics is the rational manipulation of irrational symbols, a loud and clear shout from an entire state about something is not a trivial outcome.

Especially when the issue is the takeover of American democracy by immortal corporations, a fantastic power-grab engineered and rammed through the US Supreme Court under Justice John Roberts, whose famously and entirely self-proclaimed “judicial modesty” was instantly revealed by the Citizens United ruling as the most outrageous and false facade since Tammy Faye Bakker’s makeup.

Washington votes overwhelmingly voted to instruct their elected officials to reverse that notorious and odious ruling and to return to the prior arrangement, which held that corporations could not deploy their resources to purchase the election of public officials. The whole thrust of the Roberts Court has been to insulate corporate power from any pesky meddling by citizens, who, being mortal and having been foolish enough to not be born wealthy, cannot compete with the corporate barons in terms of getting influence in the halls of power across America, especially in the Auction on the Potomac known as Congress.

Indeed, the most damaging outcome of the “ED” — electoral dysfunction — that will place Trump in the White House is the near-certainty that he will pick more corporatist tools like Roberts to fill vacancies on the Court, and it means that — just as the Civil War happened because the political solution to slavery was blocked by the Supreme Court — America is now much more likely to see violence because the peaceful means of working out the problem of corporate domination and the attending political corruption will be blocked for the foreseeable future.

Here is the ballot summary Washington voters saw:


The Law as it Presently Exists

The United States Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the right of individuals to contribute money to candidates running for office and to spend money independently to support or oppose candidates. In 2010, the Court held in a case called Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), that the First Amendment also gives corporations a right to independently spend money to support or oppose candidates.

An amendment changing the United States Constitution may be proposed either by the United States Congress or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the States’ legislatures. A proposed amendment becomes a part of the Constitution if it is ratified by three-fourths of the States. The amendment process is described in Article V of the United States Constitution.

The Effect of the Proposed Measure, if Approved

The measure would urge Washington’s current and future members of Congress to propose a joint resolution to amend the United States Constitution. The proposed amendment would state that constitutional rights belong only to individual human beings; that spending money is not free speech under the First Amendment; that governments are fully empowered to regulate political contributions and expenditures to prevent undue influence on government; and that political contributions and expenditures must be promptly disclosed to the public.

The measure would urge Washington’s members of Congress to choose an amendment ratification method that will best ensure that the people are heard and represented during the ratification process. It would also urge current and future Washington legislatures to ratify such an amendment when passed by the United States Congress and delivered to the States for ratification.

Finally, the measure would provide that immediately after the measure is enacted, the Washington Secretary of State is directed to deliver copies of the measure to the Washington State Governor, all current members of the Washington State Legislature, all current members of the United States Congress, and the President of the United States.

The actual text approved by the Washington voters:

Sec. 1. INTENT

This act declares that the people of Washington State support amending The Constitution of the United States to eliminate the undue influence of concentrated money and political power on elections and governmental policy. The amendment would overturn decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States extending constitutional rights to corporations and other artificial legal entities as well as those decisions equating the spending of money with free speech. It also provides for the regulation and disclosure of political contributions and spending.

Sec. 2. FINDINGS

1. Free and fair elections, as well as honest representation, are essential to self-determination and self-governance as described in The Declaration of Independence and established in The Constitution of the United States.


2. The American people have lost faith in the political process because their voices are not heard and their interests are not represented. Thus, an ever smaller percentage of Americans is motivated to vote.


3. The U.S. Constitution makes no mention of corporations or other artificial entities; there are no provisions extending rights to such entities. However, through a series of decisions equating a “corporation” with a “person,” the U.S. Supreme Court extended to corporations the constitutional rights and protections intended for people only.


4. Unlike human beings, corporations can exist in perpetuity and in many countries at the same time. As a result many large corporations, both foreign and domestic, invest in campaigns to invalidate or bypass regulatory law intended to protect the public. Thus, corporate participation in the political process often conflicts with the public interest.


5. Money is property; it is not speech. Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution is money equated with speech. Because advertising is limited and costly, equating the spending of money with free speech gives those with the most money the most speech.


6. Whenever special interests, including very wealthy individuals, are able to spend unlimited amounts of money on political speech, candidates and officeholders can be corrupted and intimidated, and the free speech of most citizens is drowned out and denied. Monopolizing public speech neither promotes nor protects free speech.


7. Anonymous contributions and spending for political gain promote dishonesty and corruption, preventing voters from assessing the motives of the speaker. The public must be able to hold funders of political speech accountable when their messages prove false or misleading. Full and prompt disclosure of funding sources is essential to an informed electorate, fair elections, and effective governance.


8. Article V of the U.S. Constitution empowers the people and the states to use the amendment process to correct egregious decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court that subvert our representative government.

Sec. 3. POLICY & PROMOTION

The voters of the State of Washington urge immediate action by the current and future Washington State congressional delegations to propose a joint resolution for an amendment to The Constitution of the United States clarifying that:


1. The rights listed and acknowledged in The Constitution of the United States are the rights of individual human beings only.

2. The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to be free speech under the First Amendment of The Constitution of the United States. Federal, state, and local governments shall be fully empowered to regulate political contributions and expenditures to ensure that no person or artificial legal entity gains undue influence over government and the political process.

3. All political contributions and expenditures shall be disclosed promptly and in a manner accessible to voters prior to elections.

4. This act does not limit the people’s rights to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, or freedom of association.


Sec. 4. RECOMMENDATION TO CONGRESS

In accordance with the U.S. Constitution, the voters of the State of Washington urge the Washington state congressional delegation, and the U.S. Congress generally, to include an amendment ratification method which will best ensure that the people are heard and represented during the ratification process.

Sec. 5. RECOMMENDATION TO STATE LEGISLATURE

The voters of the State of Washington urge our current and future Washington state legislatures to ratify such an amendment when passed by Congress and delivered to the states for ratification.

Sec. 6. DIRECTION TO SECRETARY OF STATE

The Washington Secretary of State is authorized and directed to immediately deliver copies of this initiative, when enacted, to the following persons: the governor of the State of Washington, all current members of the Washington State legislature, all current members of the United States Congress, and the president of the United States.

Sec. 7. CONSTRUCTION
The provisions of this act are to be liberally construed to effectuate the intent, policies, and purposes of this act.

Sec. 8. SEVERABILITY

If any provision of this act or its application to any person, entity, or circumstance is held invalid, the remainder of the act or the application of the provision to other persons, artificial legal entities, or circumstances is not affected.

Sec. 9. MISCELLANEOUS

This act is known and may be cited as the “Government of, by, and for the People Act.”

Picture

Californians passed Proposition 59 along the same lines; here is the ballot summary and the Yes argument from the voter guide:

OFFICIAL TITLE AND SUMMARY     PREPARED BY THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
 
     •  Asks whether California’s elected officials should use their authority to propose and ratify an amendment to the federal Constitution overturning the United States Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
 
     •  Citizens United ruled that laws placing certain limits on political spending
by corporations and unions are unconstitutional.
 
     •  States that the proposed amendment should clarify that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as human beings.
 
ANALYSIS BY THE LEGISLATIVE ANALYST BACKGROUND
 
Political Campaign Spending. Many people, corporations, labor unions, and other groups spend money to influence voters’ decisions in political campaigns. This spending includes:

• Direct Contributions. People can give money directly to candidates, political parties, and committees. These direct contributions are subject to federal, state, and local limits. In some cases, federal law does not allow direct contributions. For example, corporations and labor unions may not give money directly to a candidate for a federal office.
 
• Independent Expenditures. A person makes an “independent expenditure” if he or she spends money to influence voters with no coordination with a candidate or campaign. For example, a person producing a radio commercial urging people to vote for a candidate is making an independent expenditure if the commercial is made without the involvement of the candidate’s campaign.
 
Independent Expenditures Protected by U.S. Constitution.

Before 2010, federal law limited corporations and labor unions’ abilities to make independent expenditures in federal elections. Some California local governments had similar laws for local elections. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court determined in the Citizens United case that independent expenditures made by corporations and labor unions are a form of speech protected under the Constitution.

Based on this determination and related court decisions, government may not limit the right of corporations and labor unions to make independent expenditures. This ruling applies to federal, state, and local governments.

Two-Step Process to Change the Constitution. The Constitution may be changed through a two-step “amendment” process. Under this process, described below, only the Congress, state legislatures, and—if called by the Congress—constitutional conventions have a role in changing the Constitution. Since the Constitution became law in 1789, 33 amendments have been proposed and 27 amendments have been approved through this process.
 
• Step One: The Congress Acts. The process to change the Constitution begins with the Congress either (1) proposing changes or amendments to the Constitution or (2) calling a constitutional convention to propose amendments after the state legislatures of at least 34 states have asked for such a convention. No amendment has been proposed by a constitutional convention.
 
• Step Two: The States Act. At least 38 states must approve a proposed amendment before it becomes law. Depending on instructions from the Congress, states approve proposed amendments through either the state legislatures or state-level conventions.
 
Historically, only one amendment— the 21st Amendment repealing the prohibition of the sale of alcoholic beverages—has been approved through state-level conventions rather than by state legislatures.
 
PROPOSAL
Proposition 59 asks if California’s elected officials should use all of their
constitutional authority—including, but not limited to, amending the Constitution—to:
• Reverse the effects of Citizens United and related court decisions.
• Allow the regulation and limitation of political campaign spending.
• Ensure individuals are able to express political views.
• Make clear that corporations should not have the same constitutional rights as people.
 
Proposition 59 is an advisory measure only. It does not require any particular action by the Congress or the California Legislature.
 
[The Proponents’ YES argument:]

Vote YES on Proposition 59 to help get big money out of politics and restore a government of, by, and for the people. Corporations and billionaires should not be allowed to continue to buy our elections.
 
But that’s exactly what the United States Supreme Court did in the disastrous Citizens United v. FEC ruling. This misguided decision gave corporations the same “rights” as human beings and freed them to spend unlimited amounts of money in our elections. Other recent decisions overturned long-standing laws limiting how much billionaires could spend in an election.

As a result, corporations and their billionaire owners are spending unprecedented amounts of money to tilt the outcomes of our elections in their favor.
 
Corporations and billionaires should not have a greater voice in our elections than California voters. Corporations spend huge amounts of money to influence election results and make it harder for our voices to be heard.
 
The Supreme Court was wrong and must be corrected. Corporations play a vital role in our economy. But corporations aren’t people. They don’t vote, get sick, or die in wars for our country. The Constitution was written to protect human beings, not corporations. The rights granted to corporations by the Supreme Court allow them to drown out the voices of real people—as voters, consumers, workers, and small business owners.
 
We The People should have the right to set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.
 
Vote YES on Prop. 59 and tell Congress to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that puts an end to this corrosive political spending.
 
California voters have used ballot measures to instruct and improve our state and local governments before. Prop. 59 allows us to do this on this critical issue.
Real campaign finance reform can only happen with a groundswell of grassroots support from across the country. Let’s do our part and vote YES on Proposition 59.
Help send a message to Congress to act now to strengthen our democracy.
Vote YES on Proposition 59.