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After ‘Citizens United,’ is Constitutional Amendment Needed?

Michael Beckel
iWatch News / News Analysis
Published: Thursday 24 May 2012
Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups search for a good way to deal with the Citizens United ruling.
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Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United ruling in 2010, many Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups have proposed constitutional amendments to overturn the controversial decision — or attempt to curb its impact. But not everyone who disagrees with the decision thinks that’s the right approach to reducing corporate influence in politics.

Opponents of the decision — which held that unlimited expenditures by corporations to independently advocate for or against federal candidates did not pose a threat of corrupting politicians — gathered at a forum Tuesday in Washington, D.C. 

There, the case was decried as a “product of judicial activism” by Kent Greenfield, a law professor at Boston College Law School. And Jamie Raskin, a Democratic state senator in Maryland who is also a law professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, said the ruling has helped move the nation toward a government “by, of and for the corporations.”

But while both Greenfield and Raskin railed against the threats they see from the influence of corporate money in elections, the men were in opposite corners about whether a constitutional amendment was the best way to fight it.

Greenfield fervently opposes such proposals — which run the gamut from provisions saying simply that “corporations are not people” to measures asserting that Congress and state legislatures have the right to regulate corporate political spending — while Raskin supports them.

“The problem with most of the amendments out there is that they want to burn down the house to get rid of termites,” Greenfield said. “We don’t have to take corporations and say that none of them ever have any constitutional rights in order to solve the problem.”

Greenfield’s ally on the panel — which was hosted by the nonprofit Alliance for Justice — Mark Schmitt, a senior fellow at the progressive Roosevelt Institute, also opposes the idea of a constitutional amendment.

“It’s sending the message that you can’t do anything about money in politics until you pass this amendment,” Schmitt said.

Raskin disagreed, and defended the constitutional push.

“Let’s rebuild the wall of separation between corporate treasury wealth and American political elections,” said Raskin, who as a lawmaker has supported efforts in Maryland to pass a constitutional amendment and introduced legislation to create public financing.

While he noted that a constitutional amendment is “not a panacea,” Raskin said it presents “an organizing vision” and a “flag in the sand.”

He said activists could look to the suffragette movement as a source of hope.

Advocacy for a constitutional amendment, Raskin argued, helped “catalyze” suffragettes after the 1875 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Minor v. Happersett that said the Constitution did not grant women the right to vote. Over the subsequent decades, the movement achieved many victories for women’s rights, including the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 that finally gave women the right to vote.

“The state doesn’t have to permit its own creature to consume it,” he said, quoting a famous line from former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White.

“Corporations have to be subordinate to the state legislatures,” Raskin continued. “Now under Citizens United, basically, the states have to allow their own creatures to devour them.”

Greenfield, who agreed that corporations wield undue power, remained unconvinced.

“I would prefer organizing to be done around something that, if passed, would be a good thing,” he said.

“Let’s talk about making corporations more internally democratic,” Greenfield continued. “If corporations themselves were more democratic, then the fact that they speak would be less problematic.”

On these points, too, Greenfield met with resistance from Raskin.

While Raskin agreed that internal changes within corporations were a good idea, he contended that increased transparency and involvement among shareholders wasn’t enough.

“We can’t leave it to shareholders to protect the rest of us,” Raskin said.

Reprinted by permission from iWatch News

Corporations are

Corporations are fundamentally different from people and this needs to be codified in our consititution. If your interested in this issue you should see the award winning British film "The Corporation" !

“It’s sending the message

“It’s sending the message that you can’t do anything about money in politics until you pass this amendment,” Schmitt said.

Ah, precisely the REASON for a Constitutional amendment.

And, while we're at it, let's add a censure for the treasonous Supreme Court for their gross overreach in favor of corporatism..

ALL attempts to overcome

ALL attempts to overcome Citizens United should be pursued, and all processes, including BUT NOT LIMITED TO the Amendment; though the Amendment process is too long and complicated to be sufficiently timely. Further, the thought expressed here that "we do not want to deny ALL constitutional rights to corporations", misses the point entirely.

Corporations are CREATURES of government, and are licensed by government for that status. The rights can and should be controlled by the licensing agreement, i.e. the form of the corporate charter in the government where incorporated. "Constitutional" rights should not even be considered for corporate or other, non human, entities, in any democracy "of, by and for the People"! We should expressly declare that all foreign corporations that operate in the U.S., must do so under specific Federal agreements, as well as any should any U.S. corporation that is not specifically chartered in any State.

It must also be specified that no corporate or other form of legal entity shall be entitled to vote or to directly influence the vote in the United States, by funding, speech or any other means.

This piece is exemplary of

This piece is exemplary of the kind of reporting that should be outlawed. It uses the he-said, she-said mold without evidencing that the reporter has though through the issues or asked any relevant questions. The most basic is, if no amendment, then what? Without that, one can't even begin to think productively about the matter. Shame on you.

Yes, a constitutional

Yes, a constitutional amendment is necessary. It will take more than just repealing the Citizens United ruling by the super idiotic court.
Respect? Hell no! Those idiots do not deserve respect.

"Democratic corporations" is

"Democratic corporations" is purely oxymoronic, and about as incredible and unworkable a concept as I've heard ever.

It's simple really, as suggested by Mr. Ziolkowski above, a clear statement that "person" means a living breathing human being, with a pulse and an arc of existence that begins (approximately) at birth and ends at death. Corporations and other legal fictions need not apply. The whole concept of "Incorporation" was designed to insulate the wealthy from the losses and damage that might otherwise be inflicted on them when things went south, (take a gander at the history of the British East India Corp. or the Hudson's Bay Company). The idea that they can now qualify for citizenship is an absurdity heaped on an already cynical and avaricious and I might add, incongruous idea.

AMEN, exactly! And, see my

AMEN, exactly! And, see my later comment.

Because I do not trust

Because I do not trust Congress any long to perform the will of the People, I strongly support the Amendment.

Because of the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, from the United States of America's Supreme Court ruling, I want A Constitutional Amendment to the United States of America's Constitution Article 1, to clearly define that an Individual is a Living Breathing Member of the Homo-Sapiens Species and that Corporations, Companies, Institutions, or any kind of Organization are not Individuals and do not have the same Rights as do Living Breathing Individuals. I also want it to clearly state that only Congress has the Right and the Ability to place limits upon What, Where, When and How an individual may make Contributions to a Political Party or to an Individual running for a Political Office.

An Individual may only make a Contribution to a Political Party or Individual Political Candidate that lives or operates within the State that the Individual Contributor lives in 51% of the Year. We the People want outsiders stopped from affecting elections in our home states. The Individual making the contribution has to send it to the Federal Election Commission specifying the Political Party or the Political Candidate they want the funds to go to. The Federal Election Commission would then once a month, send the Contribution to the Political party or the Individual Political Candidate but it would be Anonymous so that neither the Political Party nor the Individual Candidate would feel an obligation to the Donor.

Political Action Committees may only advertise their Support for, or Against an Issue that they have an interest in. They MUST NEVER be permitted to be for or against an Individual Candidate or Political Party.

A Constitutional Amendment

A Constitutional Amendment was needed to abolish slavery and rebuke the Taney Supreme kangaroo kourt.

A Constitutional amendment is needed to abolish the unlimited and anonymous corrupting influence of obscene amounts of special interest money on the electoral and legislative processes in the federal and state governments if we don't want fascist plutocracy to replace representative democracy. It is also needed to rebuke the 5 corporatist fascists on the Roberts' Supreme kangaroo kourt (Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy) and their half-assed, twisted, perverted, convoluted reasoning behind their Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission ruling.

"Democratic Corporations" --

"Democratic Corporations" -- What has he been smoking?

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