Rep. Ted Deutch: Throw Out Citizens United, Ban Corporate Money
By Ted Deutch
In Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court overturned a century of precedent by ruling caps on outside election spending to be unconstitutional. Now, Americans are witnessing for the first time what a presidential election in the age of Citizens United looks like as corporations and the super wealthy take advantage of their newfound ability to spend unlimited sums of money on our elections. Thus far, about two-dozen billionaires have spent over a quarter million dollars each on the election, with millions of corporate dollars kept totally secret from the public. It has been reported that Republican Party bigwigs like Karl Rove and the Koch brothers are working to spend roughly $1 billion in an effort to defeat the President this November.
Most Americans agree that special interests already have too much influence in Washington. While our campaign finance system has long been imperfect, what the Supreme Court did in Citizens United was undermine the very concept of campaign finance laws and spending limits all together. Our democracy’s descent into a free-for-all system where corporations and their CEOs can buy our elections was recently confirmed when the high court even went so far as to strike down a century-old Montana law banning corporate spending in elections. It is clear that good government laws across the country are now under siege. With our ability to strengthen campaign finance laws effectively crippled due to Citizens United, amending our Constitution is now our only route to reclaiming our democracy.
I have introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and ban corporate spending in our elections once and for all. The Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy (OCCUPIED) Amendment makes clear that corporations are not people but private entities prohibited from using their general treasury funds to influence voters. The resolution also restores legislators’ authority to limit and require disclosure of all political spending by individuals, unions, nonprofits, wealthy self-funded candidates, and all other sources.
Amending the Constitution is an enormous undertaking. Certainly, there are reforms Congress should immediately pass to protect our elections in the meantime. My colleague Congressman Chris Van Hollen’s DISCLOSE Act would force these front groups to disclose their donors, and my own Campaign Sunlight Act would require campaigns to provide the Federal Elections Commission with documentation to back up the attacks levied in their advertising. While bills like these would help insert much needed transparency in our elections, the fact remains that the ability of corporations and the super wealthy to drown out the will of the people poses a systemic threat to our democracy.
I am heartened by the fact a movement to take back our democracy is forming across the country. Millions of Americans are declaring their support for getting money out of politics by signing petitions like my own at www.theoccupiedamendment.org. In addition, the sponsor of my constitutional amendment in the United States Senate, Senator Bernie Sanders, recently testified that over 200 communities across America have passed local resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment. Solving this problem may not happen overnight, but amending the Constitution is our best path towards restoring the integrity of our elections and delivering our democracy back to the American people.
Ted Deutch (D-Florida) is a Member of the United States House of Representatives.