Constitutional Amendment proposed for getting money out of politics

| September 27, 2011 | 9 Replies

How can it be that most of our politicians believe the following:

- That Wall Street so-called banks deserved a federal bailout when they were largely responsible for causing the economic collapse of the United States, and despite the fact that after bank “reform” the Wall Street banks are bigger than ever.

- That the United States needs to keep spending more on its war machine than all of the other countries on earth combined, and that we somehow need to be in a state of perpetual unfunded war?

- That Congress passed “health care reform” that forces Americans to purchase coverage from monopolistic for-profit corporations, instead of passing some form of single payer coverage, which is overwhelmingly preferred by Americans.

- That private money political campaigns and an over-consolidated for-profit media pre-choosing candidates is a good thing.

- That they shouldn’t repeal the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

The answer is lots of money.  When it is handed to politicians in large wads, it makes them vote in ways that keeps the money coming, regardless of what they claim.  Here’s the inner logic from a politician’s viewpoint:  ”How would I keep my job if I didn’t keep the money rolling in by voting for corporate interests even when those votes conflict with the interests of ordinary citizens.”

I agree with Dylan Ratigan that our politicians can’t have any meaningful conversations, and can’t make rational decisions, given the amount of private money in politics.  The money they receive turns virtually all of them into psychopaths.   Getting private money out of politics has become the most important issue of them all, because it keeps us from rationally discussing every other issue.  How could we possibly get private money out of politics?  The politicians won’t do it, because it is like crack cocaine to them.

Dylan Ratigan has proposed the following as an Amendment to the United States Constitution to get  money out of politics, effectively reversing Citizen’s United in the process:

No person, corporation or business entity of any type, domestic or foreign, shall be allowed to contribute money, directly or indirectly, to any candidate for Federal office or to contribute money on behalf of or opposed to any type of campaign for Federal office. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, campaign contributions to candidates for Federal office shall not constitute speech of any kind as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution or any amendment to the U. S. Constitution. Congress shall set forth a federal holiday for the purposes of voting for candidates for Federal office.

How would this Amendment work in the real world?  I’m not certain, because I just saw this proposed Amendment today.  I suspect that the plan is that the politicians would, under this Amendment, run their campaigns based on public money or based on appearances at public forums at which they would share their ideas.   Perhaps free television and radio time would be part of the mix–after all, the people of the United States own the airwaves, and TV and radio stations merely have the right to use them.  I think that that the blunt amendment proposed by Ratigan is the right approach, though I need to consider it further.

What follows is text from a mass emailing I received today from Dylan Ratigan:

Money has bought our politics. Only we the people can take it back. But, HOW?

I have asked a professional lobbyist and a series of Constitutional scholars. They tell me that it will require a large, unrelenting, organized group aligned around a Constitutional Amendment to Get Money Out of politics.

Read the Amendment and add your signature.

Our goal is to get a large, unrelenting, organized group to sign on to a petition asking our politicians to ban money in politics. If we can get it big enough, we can use my show on MSNBC as a platform to force this issue to the center of next year’s Presidential debate. Without you I am just a talking head. With you we are 100,000 American s for Justice.

All of us know the problem, in our gut. I exploded this summer, in a “mad as hell” moment that went viral on the internet. You responded, but you too are Mad as Hell. But we also know that anger and logic are only useful if we turn our collective energy into positive action.

Our politicians know the problem, too. But they aren’t going to fix the problem because if one of them forfeits money, the others will quickly find that person easy to beat. Instead, all of them must be forced to disarm at the same time. That will only happen if we the people, a large unrelenting, organized group, tell the politicians to Get Money Out.

There are serious legal questions around any Constitutional amendment. What will it do? How extensive can it be? My own sense is that the strongest amendments are a few paragraphs and lay out a simple and strong set of principles. I’ve asked Jimmy Williams, a frequent guest on my show and an experienced lobbyist, to come up with draft text. He’s a lobbyist who has become as disgusted as we are at the fetid stench coming from DC, and he knows as well as anyone how corrupting money can be in our politics. He’s been there.

But the legal questions are frankly small. More importantly, how do we make this happen? I believe we can make this happen by forming an army of Americans who want to get money out, and putting that front and center in 2012. We’ll start with something simple: the voices of 100,000 of us.
That is our challenge. Add your name.

And send me ideas at Dylan@DylanRatigan.com on how we can build a movement to Get Money Out. The clock is ticking, so let’s get to it.

Truth to Power,

Dylan

30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112. USA

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Category: Campaign Finance Reform

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 and his wife, Anne Jay, live in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising their two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (9)

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  1. Tim Hogan says:

    Yes, Citizens United is to the left and what Roe v. Wade is to fundies but, neither is going to result in any US Constitutional Amendment being adopted to overturn the decision. But, in an eternally optimistic effort, I will sign another petition for an anti-Citizens United US Constitutional Amnendment.

    C’mon 2/3 of the US Senate and 2/3 of the US House then 3/4 of the states? Ain’t gonna happen! So, what do we do?

    Impeach Roberts because he lied to the US Senate Judiciary Committee on his criteria for ignoring or overturning long standing precedent when he made overturned over 100 years of US jurisprudence in a corporate fascist right wing results oriented decision in Citizens United that declared corporations persons whose speech speech is protected under the 1st Amendment!There are pother exmaples but, that’s for another article!

    Impeach and get rid of Thomas and Scalia because their conflicts of interest and scandals completely demean the USSC and its impartiality.

    I say there’s a for better chance to get rid of the riff raff on the USSC than to pass any US Constitutional Amendment to clean up the after birth of Citizens United.

    I believe the best chance is what I wrote here:

    http://dangerousintersection.org/2011/06/13/dismantling-citizens-united/
    ]

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Dylan Ratigan offers this FAQ regarding the proposed constitutional amendment:

    Question: If no person or corporation can spend money on elections, how will elections be funded?

    Answer: we do not attempt in this amendment to determine how federal campaigns will be funded post-passage. Instead, we cut off the Supreme Court’s ability to strike down previous attempts to reign in campaign fundraising abuses by taking away the argument that money is speech as interpreted from the First Amendment by the high Court. A likely scenario would be that Congress would establish a federal campaign fund to finance elections. For example, a presidential campaign fund already exists. There are myriad ways to establish and stock such a fund many of which do not cost the taxpayer a single dime. This could include auctioning the airwaves among other things. In the end though we aren’t trying to tell Congress what it should do once it “sobers up”. Instead, we are simply attempting to get Congress off of its addiction to money.

    Question: Why is this important?

    Answer: With Congress at an approval rating of 13%, with a federal deficit of over $14 trillion, and with our country engaged in two wars, the American people are clearly fed up. Washington DC doesn’t debate policy anymore. Instead it spends a majority of its time beating each other, tearing each other up, and raising money to do it. A typical Member of Congress attends a breakfast, lunch, and dinner fundraiser every single calendar day they’re in Washington. That’s at the expense of meeting with constituents, or legislating on the Floor if each Chamber, or working with a President to move policy that helps the American people. Most would agree that money in politics isn’t healthy. And it doesn’t matter what the amount of money is. An 82 year old grandmother giving a $25 donation to her Senator expects him/her to vote her way. A 45 year old billionaire giving a $25 million donation to an “independent” political action committee or not-for-profit committee expects his/her money to be used for or against a certain Senator or Congressman or President. Either amount, there’s an implied quid pro quo that comes with that donation and that is corrupting. Again, I suspect the the 87% of the American people who think Congress is broken most likely agree that the system needs to be cleaned up. That’s why this is so important.

    Question: Can SuperPACs spend on campaigns?

    Answer: Not under this amendment; the amendment specifically disallows outside spending for or against a candidate for federal office.

    Question: Does this amendment allow foreign governments to spend money on US elections?

    Answer: This amendment specifically prohibits foreign entities of any type from spending or donating money to any candidate for federal office.

    Question: I’ve worked on a lot of political campaigns (large & small) & they’ve all required at least some $$. How does your plan work?

    Answer: see question one.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    OK, guess who is responsible for saying this?

    “The current state of campaign fundraising entails the inherent risk that companies, labor unions, and other organizations will be drawn into a political spending arms race, with no clear end in sight. Corporate resources that might be better spent investing in an enterprise or otherwise building shareholder value would then be diverted to political activities. As CED has noted before, a vibrant and strong economy results from business competition in the economic marketplace, not in the political arena. Unrestrained corporate political spending encourages the pursuit of particular policy or regulatory benefits that may not serve the public’s broad interests, or lead to political donations that are given with the intent of avoiding adverse consequences of legislative action. Donor influence also serves to undermine market forces by facilitating policies or regulatory requirements that diminish competition or unduly advantage particular firms or industries. Furthermore, the influence of money can sustain inefficient or outmoded businesses, thereby subverting and frustrating the creative innovation that encourages new investment, spurs business development, and keeps jobs and investment at home.”

    Answer: Some big business (e.g., Pfizer and Merck) who are currently big players in the ongoing elections. http://www.ced.org/images/content/events/moneyinpolitics/2011/hiddenmoney.pdf I’m not going to be naive here. It is good PR for a business to protest while playing the game. But maybe we’re seeing the beginning of something less bad that the current method of electing politicians: essentially a coin-operated vending machine.

  4. Karl says:

    Unless you decrease the likelihood of political lobbying returning a favorable outcome for anyone you will not curb this problem. I’ll say it again, put an IRS official in charge of every politicians official and personal accounting and tax anything above a governmental allowed minimum at an exhorbitant rate. Otherwise the money that could be used to create jobs will only go to protect the special interests of the loyalists and other leaders who believe that have the money to buy whatever influence they want.

    You can not tell the people what they can spend or waste their money on but you can certainly control what a governmental official is allowed to receive from them.

    The Supreme Court will not limit free speech, but they can limit what a politician is allowed to use for personal gain or durther lobbying themselves.

  5. Karl says:

    Why is it that we try to prevent large annual tax free gifts to individuals from other individuals, but don’t really limit effectively what collective groups (including corporations, unions, the government and political action groups)can do with their money? In effect, we have a sham of a system when it comes to political corruption.

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    Dylan Ratigan has posted a constitutional amendment proposed by Lawrence Lessig on his site:

    “No non-citizen shall contribute money, directly or indirectly, to any candidate for Federal office. United States citizens shall be free to contribute no more than the equivalent of $100 to any federal candidate during any election cycle. Notwithstanding the limits construed to be part of the First Amendment, Congress shall have the power to limit, but not ban, independent political expenditures, so long as such limits are content and viewpoint neutral. Congress shall set forth a federal holiday for the purposes of voting for candidates for Federal office.”

    There are hundreds of thoughtful comments comparing the Lessig proposed amendment to the original proposed by Ratigan. http://www.getmoneyout.com/comments_on_amendment_drafts?page=1

  7. Erich Vieth says:

    Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida has introduced a Constitutional Amendment to ban corporate money in political elections and ballot initiatives. http://thinkprogress.org/special/2011/11/18/372361/rep-deutch-introduces-occupied-constitutional-amendment-to-ban-corporate-money-in-politics/

  8. Erich Vieth says:

    Lawrence Lessig has proposed a law to encourage grassroots contributions to elections by offering an offset to income tax. http://dangerousintersection.org/2011/11/18/lawrence-lessigs-idea-for-leveling-the-political-playing-field/

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