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Dennis Kucinich and Russell Simmons Fix the Constitution

By Dennis Kucinich and Russell Simmons on Huffington Post

This is not a progressive issue or a conservative issue. This is not a Tea Party issue or a liberal issue. This is an American issue. Money is destroying our politics and our political system. The signs are everywhere. A "super PAC" supporting Mitt Romney spent $3.5 million to knock Newt Gingrich out of the lead in Iowa. A super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich is spending a greater amount of money to return the favor to Mitt Romney in South Carolina. Our electoral system has become such a joke that two late-night comedians are now actually participating in it and are generating great laughter just by demonstrating how it operates.

In the past, Congress has made two bipartisan efforts to control the impact of money on our elections, first in the early 1970s and more recently with the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, known as "McCain-Feingold." Both of these laws tried to restrict the influence of money on our elections. But after each of these efforts, the Supreme Court kicked down the door and allowed campaign money to flow more freely.

First, in Buckley v. Valeo, the Court held that money is the equivalent of "free speech" under the First Amendment, and that no act of Congress could restrict the amount of money that an individual could contribute to his or her own campaign or expend in support of another person's campaign as long as that expenditure was "independent" of the campaign. This decision gave the "one percent" a voice in our elections that greatly exceeds the concept of "one citizen-one vote."

Then, exactly two years ago today in Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court went off the deep end and ruled that corporations are "persons" under the First Amendment and that no act of Congress could restrict the amount of money a corporation could spend in an election. This decision gives all U.S. corporations, and all U.S. subsidiaries of foreign corporations, every right to participate in our elections that individual U.S. citizens have, excepting only the right to actually vote.

The concept of giving corporations the same rights as individuals would have staggered our "founding fathers." Corporations in their present form did not even exist in 1789 when the Bill of Rights was ratified. The Bill of Rights was written to protect individuals from the power of the federal government. It was later extended by the Fourteenth Amendment to protect individuals from similar abuses by state governments. Where in this "original intent" was there any expression that corporations should have the same rights as individuals to participate in our electoral process?

We must get money out of our politics and out of our electoral system. We must eliminate the influence of multi-national corporations and foreign corporations on the government of our country. Since the Supreme Court majority is obviously opposed to such reforms, the only way to correct our system is through a constitutional amendment that will take money out of our electoral system.

This week, a constitutional amendment was introduced in Congress that will require all federal campaigns -- that is campaigns for president, vice president, senator and representative -- to be financed exclusively with public funds, and that will prohibit any expenditures from any other source, including the candidate. This amendment will also preclude any expenditures in support of, or in opposition to, any federal candidate, so that special interest groups will not be able to influence elections either. This amendment does, however, maintain our historical "freedom of the press" and preserve the traditional role that the media have played in our electoral process.

It is clear. Money has become a corrupting influence in the political system. This is one of the most important issues of our time. We must rescue American democracy. Together, we are committed to protecting the future of our democracy and that is why we have come together to promote this constitutional amendment. Whether you are a Republican, Democrat or Independent, we urge you to join us.

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From the description in this article (having not read the bill) it seems that this amendment would only prohibit donations directly to candidates. It doesn't seem to address the real proplem of massive amounts of money being spent on advertisement independant of the candidates. I don't think Citizens United was about direct donations to candidates. I think it states that unlimited amounts of money can be spent independant of candidates to influence elections. This would do almost nothing to end the super pacs influence on our elections. The attack adds would continue because the candidates are not directly financing them. Also, this amendment doesn't seem to defign what a legal person is. Are corporations people? I think not but SCOTA disagrees. We need an amendment that settles that question once and for all. Although public financing of elections is a move in the right direction, it's not even close to the fix needed to give the power back to the people where it belongs.

we've blogged this bill multiple times -- scroll down

or just look up hjres100 on


After reading it, the bill does seem to address expenditures from third parties on federal elections only. It does nothing for local and state elections. I see openings for abuse as money could still be spent without limit on support or dissent from proposed legeslation and doesn't seem to give congress the ability to regulate against it. Also, one could probably get away with attacking a candidate without mentioning his or her name.

Why not just state that people not property afford free speech and congress can regulate amounts spent by corporations, pacs, unions etc. That's what Citizens United overturned.

David, I read an article you wrote a week or so ago roughly analyzing most of the proposed amendments and legeslation out there with a crack at it of your own and that was very good. While I think public financing is a good idea, in the environment we live in to day, it doesn't go far enough. We really need to address wheather corporations  and other legal fictions should afford the same (or more as they seem to now) constitutional rights as real breathing persons.

Thanks for the reply.

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