How to amend the U.S. Constitution in light of Citizens United

March 24, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More

Democracy is for People” is floating two candidates for Amending the U.S. Constitution to course correct after Citizen’s United.

We’ve suggested a couple of possibilities at this point. One would state:

The freedoms of speech and the press, and the right to assemble peaceably and to petition the Government for the redress of grievances, as protected by this Constitution, shall not encompass the speech, association, or other activities of any corporation or other artificial entity created for business purposes, except for a corporation or entity whose business is the publication or broadcasting of information, when such corporation or entity is engaged in that business. A corporation or other artificial entity created for business purposes includes a corporation or entity that, although not itself engaged in business pursuits, receives the majority of its funding from other corporations or artificial entities created for business purposes.

Another possibility would be:

Congress and the States may make laws imposing reasonable restrictions on the speech and association of corporations and other artificial entities created for business purposes. This article shall not authorize restrictions not otherwise permissible on the freedom of speech or of the press enjoyed by a corporation or entity whose business is the publication or broadcasting of information, when such corporation or entity is engaged in that business. A corporation or other artificial entity created for business purposes includes a corporation or entity that, although not itself engaged in business pursuits, receives the majority of its funding from other corporations or artificial entities created for business purposes.

These two possibilities would have somewhat different implications in practice, but both would permit Congress to regulate political spending by business corporations. There are other possible approaches. These suggestions are just the beginning of what must be a thoughtful discussion to determine the best language to protect real people’s right to speak freely and to protect the press from government censorship, while making clear that these rights do not extend to corporations’ speech (except for speech by the media).

Democracy Is For People is a project of Public Citizen.

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Category: Campaign Finance Reform, Politics

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (2)

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  1. Democracy Lover says:

    Thanks for posting! Something definitely needs to be done about this horrific ruling. People who are interested in being involved should check out http://www.facebook.com/democracyisforpeople too!

  2. Adam Herman says:

    It’s a nice try, definitely better than the Sanders amendment, but ultimately meaningless, since any company that wanted to get around restrictions would just buy a news outlet. Bingo, they are in the news business now!

    BTW, could you point me to the democracy threatening corporate speech that needs to be censored to protect us? I’ve been searching Youtube for corporate funded ads and they don’t look to democracy-threatening to me. If anything, the ads funded by political parties are much more heinous.

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