Democrats Propose Constitutional Amendment to 'Wipe Clean the Dark Stain' of Citizens United

Supporters of Senate Democrats’ proposed Democracy for All constitutional amendment, aimed at reversing the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, said Tuesday that the proposal represents a much-needed step in ending the outsize influence wealthy corporations have on U.S. elections.

Lead sponsors Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) spoke on the steps outside the high court, calling for an amendment that would affirm that “corporations are not people and your net worth shouldn’t determine your right to free speech.”

“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,” said Udall. “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.”

As the government watchdog group Public Citizen said, “Winning the progressive agenda is predicated on winning” the fight for legislation like the Democracy for All Amendment.

The amendment would overturn what the lawmakers called “disastrous” Supreme Court decisions including Citizens United, which ended (pdf) state and federal limits on campaign spending and unleashed unprecedented corporate PAC spending on elections, with a record-breaking $5.2 billion spent in 2018.

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Doing so would “help ensure the voices of all Americans count as much as those of the wealthy and powerful,” the lawmakerssaid.

The bill to pass the amendment has the support of 40 senators, while the House version has 130 co-sponsors. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) expressed his support for stopping the country’s “slide to oligarchy” on Twitter.

Patriotic Millionaires, the organization of wealthy Americans who campaign against policies which favor their financial enrichment while leaving the vast majority of families behind, also applauded the measure.

“The Patriotic Millionaires have long taken the position that everyone in this country should have the same political influence as us wealthy folks, and we are thrilled to support this amendment with that mission in mind,” said Morris Pearl, former managing director at Blackrock and chairman of the Patriotic Millionaires. “It’s time for this country to wipe clean the dark stain that Citizens United has left on our democracy.”

“The ruling, among several other key court cases addressed in this proposed amendment, has transformed our political system into a pay-to-play scheme where only the wealthiest among us can make their voices heard while average Americans are hung out to dry,” Pearl added. “The basic principle of democracy is one person, one vote—not one dollar, one vote.”

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