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The Nation

Tell Congress to Get Serious About Corporate Campaign Abuse

Members of the House and Senate are on their annual spring break. And, this being an election year, the vast majority of them are heading home to their districts to "listen" to the voters.

This year, they'll get an earful -- from constituents who may still be debating about the scope and character of health-care reform but who (according to every poll) are remarkably united in their support of job-creation projects and a "bust-the-banksters" approach to financial services reform.

Members of Congress who claim to be serious about any of these important issues need to be asked a question: "Have you signed on as a co-sponor of legislation that would amend to the U.S. Constitution in order to assure that corporations do not control our elections and our policy making?"

Chief Justice John Roberts and his Supreme Court cabal trashed the original intent of the framers, the laws of the land and a century of judicial precedent to issue a lawless ruling in the case of Citizens United v. FEC. That ruling removed even minimal limits of the ability of corporations, with their vast resources and focused agendas, to buy elections and to set the legislation agenda for the nation.

Left in place, it would forever change the premise of the American experiment from "of, by and for the people" to "of, by and for the biggest businesses." And we're not even talking about the biggest U.S. businesses. So determined were Wall Street's justices to lift limits on corporate campaigning that it actually cleared the way for multinational conglomerates to intervene in American elections via their U.S. subsidiaries -- creating a loophole so offensive and so dangerous to democracy that Justice Sam Alito tried to deny its existence when President Obama called the court out on the issue.

The right response to this assault on the law, on the basic premises of the Constitution and on democracy is to assure that no court can ever abuse its authority again. And the way to do that is by amending the Constitution to close the loopholes and assure that elections are about issues and the will of the people -- as opposed to special-interest demands and the will of the corporations.

Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards has proposed such an amendment.

It simply declares that:

Section 1. The sovereign right of the people to govern being essential to a free democracy, Congress and the States may regulate the expenditure of funds for political speech by any corporation, limited liability company, or other corporate entity.

Section 2. Nothing contained in this Article shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.

House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who is the chamber's great defender of the Constitution, was Edwards' first co-sponsor.

In the weeks since the Maryland Democrat proposed her bill, 23 additional House member have signed on.

They are:

Andre Carson, D-Indiana

Yvette Clarke, D-New York

Keith Ellison, D-Minnestota

Bob Filner, D-California

Alan Grayson, D-Florida

Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona

John Hall, D-New York

Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico

Maurice Hinchey, D-New York


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Mazie Hirano, D-Hawaii

Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas

Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Illinois

Barbara Lee, D-California

Carolyn Maloney, D-New York

Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts

James McGovern, D-Massachusetts

Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-District of Columbia

Chellie Pingree, D-Maine

Nick Rahall II, D-West Virginia

Tim Ryan, D-Ohio

Louise Slaughter, D-New York

Betty Sutton, D-Ohio

Peter Welch, D-Vermont

That's an impressive list, with several committee chairs (Conyers, Filner, Slaughter), the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (Grijava), the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (Barbara Lee) and a number of other key players in the current Congress. It is significant that Pingree, the former head of Common Cause, is on board, along with Jesse Jackson Jr., who has written extensively about and taken a lead on constitutional matters.

But many of the most serious and engaged members of the House have yet to become co-sponsors of the proposal.

When representatives are home in their districts, it is vital that they be urged to sign on.

If they don't agree to do so, find a candidate who will.

The process of amending the Constitution will take time.

But, with members in their districts, this is the time to speed it up the process.

To learn more about the campaign to amend the Constitution in order to restore power to the people, follow the terrific work of the Free Speech for People and the Move to Amend projects.

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