Campaign Finance Reformby Representative James P. McGovern
Posted on 2013-01-22
McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, 3 years have passed since the Supreme
Court's dreadful Citizens United decision, and we have seen the
dramatic increase in the amount of corporate money flowing into our
elections, drowning out the voices of ordinary American citizens eager
to participate in the political process.
Citizens United also epitomizes the so-called ``corporate personhood'' movement in which some now say that corporations are people. The fact is, corporations are not people, and the Constitution was never intended to give corporations the same rights as the American people. Corporations don't breathe, they don't have kids, and they don't die in wars.
My constituents continue to express concern about the growing influence of corporations in our political discourse. They're also demanding action on campaign finance reform because they are repulsed by the large amount of money in our campaigns. Quite frankly, they want elected officials to spend more time on policy, deliberating and debating on issues, and less time dialing for dollars.
Unfortunately, the Republican leadership in the House has failed to address these pressing issues during the past 2 years. They have been indifferent. We haven't had the opportunity to vote on any legislation to curb the influence of unlimited and sometimes secret corporate money flowing into our elections. We haven't even had the opportunity to address these issues in committee hearings or markups.
Recently, I joined 18 of my colleagues in a letter to Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers of the Judiciary Committee requesting a hearing to explore constitutional amendment proposals in response to Citizens United and related cases. I hope that we will have an opportunity to discuss these issues in the coming weeks and months. This is, after all, the people's House, and this is the place where we ought to discuss the concerns of the people.
Members of the Democratic Caucus have been working to reform our campaign finance system and restore the rights of the American people that were undermined by the Citizens United decision. We have sponsored and cosponsored legislation to address the growing influence of money in our democratic process.
As a member of the task force on elections reform, I'm proud to join my colleagues in working to rein in corporate spending and address unregulated money flowing into our elections.
Today, I'm introducing two constitutional amendments. The people's rights amendment would overturn Citizens United and put a stop to the growing trend of corporations claiming First Amendment rights. This amendment not only addresses corporate rights as they pertain to campaign finance, but is broader in scope to clarify that corporations are not people with constitutional rights. Importantly, my amendment clearly protects the people's rights of freedom of speech, freedom of press, free exercise of religion, freedom of association, and all other such rights of the people.
My second amendment advances the fundamental principle of political equality for all by empowering Congress and the States with the right to regulate political spending. It will allow Congress to pass campaign finance reform legislation that will withstand constitutional challenges.
Mr. Speaker, we need to empower people, not corporations or Big Money special interests. Our current system has been corrupted. It undermines the rights of ordinary citizens, and it undermines our democracy. Surely, this is not the system our Founders envisioned. The preamble to the Constitution is ``We the people.'' Let us hope that this Congress doesn't forget that.
I ask my colleagues to join me in supporting these important bills to reform our campaign finance laws and assure that corporate rights do not trump people's rights.