The separation of money from politics is key to restoring a healthy democracy. Righting the wrongs of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed for huge new unregulated flows of corporate political spending, has been a rallying point for many within the 99% Movement.

In response to the outcry, on November 1st, six Democratic senators — Tom Udall (NM), Michael Bennett (CO), Tom Harkin (IA), Dick Durbin (IL), Chuck Schumer (NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), and Jeff Merkely (OR) — introduced a constitutional amendment that would effectively overturn the Citizens United case.

"By equating campaign spending with free speech, the Supreme Court has essentially ruled that the wealthiest among us should have the loudest voices in our elections," said Schumer, in a press release by all six senators. "The American public is fed up with the outsize influence that money has on our politics. This constitutional amendment will restore the balance to our system that the American people expect in a democracy. It is time to return our elections to the hands of everyday citizens rather than the special interests."

"The flawed Citizens United decision allows corporations, including international corporations, to use their vast wealth to drown out the voices of the American people, and it allows them to do so anonymously from behind shell organizations," said Whitehouse. "We must ensure that government works for the American people, not powerful corporations. The constitutional amendment we are introducing today will undo the Citizens United decision, putting people in charge as the Founders of our country intended."

"It was President Lincoln who described the genius of American democracy as ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people'. We office holders work for the people. They elect us. They are in charge. Citizens United puts in motion the opposite: it moves us towards government by and for the powerful. As such, it is a dagger poised at the heart of American democracy," said Merkley. "If we are going to preserve a government responsive to its citizens, we need commonsense reforms that give the American people a full voice. This Constitutional Amendment is essential for the people to be heard."

The constitutional amendment would authorize Congress to regulate the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns, including independent expenditures, and allow states to regulate such spending at their level. It would also provide for implementation and enforcement of the amendment through legislation.

The proposed amendment:
  • Authorizes Congress to regulate and limit the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns and allow states to regulate such spending at their level;
  • Includes the authority to regulate and limit independent expenditures, such as those from Super PACs, made in support of or opposition to candidates;
  • Would not dictate any specific policies or regulations, but instead would allow Congress to pass campaign finance reform legislation that withstands constitutional challenges.
The road to passing a constitutional amendment is grueling. Either two-thirds of Congress must agree to an amendment or there must be a constitutional amendment called by two-thirds of state legislatures. In order to ratify an amendment, three-quarters of state legislatures must agree or three-quarters of states must have individual constitutional conventions that agree. But the mere introduction of this amendment is at least a step in the right direction, and represents a minor victory for the 99% Movement.

For the Text of the amendment:
A Constitutional Amendment to Reform Campaign Finance