Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards turned to Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis for guidance in framing the Constitutional amendment she proposed Tuesday as the right and necessary response to the decision by Chief Justice John Roberts and a high court majority to abandon law and precedent with the purpose of permitting corporations to dominate the political discourse.Inserted from <The Nation>
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both," said Brandeis, the lion of law whose defenses of freedom of speech and the right to privacy renewed and extended the American experiment in the 20th century.
Brandeis knew that giving corporations monopoly power over our economic life or our politics would be deadly to democracy.
Unfortunately, that truth is lost on the current Supreme Court's activist majority.
Edwards is relying on Brandeis as an intellectual and legal touchstone as she launches the boldest congressional response yet to last month's Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizens United v. FEC.
"The ruling reached by the Roberts' Court overturned decades of legal precedent by allowing corporations unfettered spending in our political campaigns. Another law will not rectify this disastrous decision," Edwards said Tuesday. "A Constitutional Amendment is necessary to undo what this Court has done. Justice Brandeis got it right: ‘We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.' It is time we remove corporate influence from our policies and our politics. We cannot allow corporations to dominate our elections, to do so would be both undemocratic and unfair to ordinary citizens."
Edwards explains the amendment in a powerful video where says: "You don't amend the Constitution often, but the Supreme Court really has left us with no choice but to change the Constitution and make sure that people own our government and our elections -- not the corporations."
Edwards does not stand alone. In addition to an array of public interest groups including Public Citizen, Voter Action, The Center for Corporate Policy and the American Independent Business Alliance, the congresswoman's proposed amendment is being backed by House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who is the dean of civil libertarians in Congress.
Conyers has signed on as an original co-sponsor of the amendment to address the court's move to allow corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections.
"The Supreme Court's idea that corporate political speech is no different than an individual citizen's political speech was not the law when the Constitution was written, was not the law before the Supreme Court's decision two weeks ago, and should not be the law in the future," says Conyers. "I look forward to working further with Ms. Edwards and my other colleagues to use every tool at our disposal to make sure that elected representatives are accountable to voters, not corporations."…
Here’s the video:
Click through to the article for the full text of the amendment.
For the long term, I agree with Edwards, but think she should go ever further to address that earlier wrongful decisions that a corporation is a person and that political expenditure equals speech.
For the short term, we need a law to serve as a poison pill to corporate spending. Congress maintains the power to tax corporate activity. I propose a 500% tax on all corporate spending for advertising, with the receipts split evenly between reducing the national debt and the funding the campaign committee of the opposing party. Here’s a hypothetical example. Let’s say Goldman Sachs spends $1 million in eleventh hour smear ads against Donna Edwards. The Extreme Court decision makes it impossible to block the ads, Edwards is defeated. Then Goldman Sachs has to pay a $5 million tax assessment. Of that, $2.5 million goes to reduce the national debt, and $2.5 million goes to the DNC. Thus, every time corporations try to buy an election, they provide 2.5 times what they spend on that to fund the campaigns of opponents and, at the same time, help pay down the national debt they created with the help of the GOP. What do you think of both ideas, hers and mine?