When I was young the word “reform” had positive connotations, but after years of observing re-forms that turned out worse than the original forms, and others that only had the appearance of reform, I find myself falling asleep when now encountering the word.
While we need campaign financial reforms, it is hard to get excited about them for they tend to be complicated and take lots of time to pass and then most of us have little idea of what the real outcome will be.
Take the McCain-Feingold Act of 2002. The immediate results seemed mixed and, though a step forward, with the Citizens United decision of 2010 (discussed in my previous post), big money seems to have found yet another end run around good intentions. So much so that one observer argued a few months ago we would be better off now if we repealed the act.
I don’t know enough to judge that, but after the U. S. Supreme Court just struck down the Montana state law limiting financial political contributions both the state’s Democrat governor and Republican Lt. Governor called for a constitutional amendment to offset the Citizen’s United decision.
I had heard here and there other calls for a constitutional amendment, including one from Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe, who had has long opposed such tinkering. However, he has changed his mind now that the “distortive effects of Citizens United and its aftermath are becoming clearer every week.” Writing recently for Slate, Tribe proposed an amendment, which has since been introduced by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), that would allow “content-neutral limitations” on independent expenditures.
As the related article at the bottom of this post indicates, some have criticisms of the wording of Tribe’s amendment, but there will be a lot of quibbling over the exact wording should an amendment gain momentum. Also, need I point out that given the election, the real battles over this won’t likely be fought until 2013?
Still, it will take months to develop momentum anyway. In Googling the amendment issue I just discovered an organization that I had never heard of, established in 2009, Move To Amend. Obviously they were working to reduce the political influence of big money even before the flood gates were opened wide with Citizens United. And if you look around the site for a few minutes, you’ll find a host of organizations that support their efforts, along with a comparison of their suggested amendment to that of others (though not of Tribe’s as yet).
They are asking for people to sign a petition that goes as follows: “We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights. “
That makes sense to me. Perhaps their wording could prompt problems, too, but there is nothing binding there and signing it seems a positive gesture, so I did. It has been signed by over 200,000 others while their goal is to reach 500,000. I would be interested in feedback if you did sign or have reasons not to sign that you are willing to share.
- A constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United? (politico.com)