January 19, 2023

Schiff, Phillips, Jayapal, McGovern Introduce Constitutional Amendment to Rein In Unrestricted Campaign Spending

U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) introduced the Democracy For All Amendment at the start of the 118th Congress, which would overturn legal precedents that have allowed unrestrained campaign spending and dark money to corrupt American democracy.

The Democracy for All Amendment would overturn Citizens United v. FEC – ahead of the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s January 21, 2010 decision – which allowed corporations and special interest groups to spend nearly unlimited funds on election campaigns. It would also address the fundamental flaws underlying the Court’s reasoning in that and an entire line of cases dating back to the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision, which prevented meaningful regulation of campaign expenditures by corporations and special interest groups.

“The flow of unrestricted corporate and dark money into our elections has dangerously eroded the American people’s faith in our democracy, and in our government’s ability to deliver for them and their families. Citizens United was one of the most egregious enablers of special interest money, but it was only the latest in a long line of Supreme Court cases that opened the floodgates. To truly rein in dark money, we must amend our Constitution,” said Schiff. “The Democracy for All Amendment will close legal loopholes that wealthy megadonors, corporations, and special interest groups have exploited for far too long, and return power to the people once and for all.”

“We just witnessed the most expensive midterm cycle in our nation’s history, proving what we already know; it’s past time to eliminate the corrupting influence of special interest money in our politics. Cosponsoring the Democracy for All Amendment was one of the first legislative actions I took after being sworn in four years ago. I’m proud to co-lead this legislation in the 118th Congress and be among a growing number in Congress who are doing everything we can to overturn Citizens United and return power to the American people,” said Phillips.

“Corporations are not people and money is not speech,” said Jayapal. “In every election following Citizens United, billions of dollars of dark money have been dumped into our electoral system, giving corporations and the richest Americans outsized power and influence. It’s time to ensure our democracy works for all people by getting big money out of politics and ensuring every voter’s voice is heard.”

“The disastrous Citizens United decision has undermined our democracy and drowned out the voices of the people for long enough,” said McGovern. “Americans overwhelmingly support protecting access to abortion, preventing gun violence, and lowering health care costs—but wealthy special interests too often stand in the way of action. Corporations are not people, and they shouldn’t have more of a say in our elections than everyday Americans. It is critical that we overturn the Citizens United decision to get big money out of politics.”

Schiff has re-introduced his constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United since 2013 and has been a strong proponent of fixing America’s broken campaign finance system since he was first elected in 2000, after a race that was at the time the most expensive in the history of the House of Representatives. The first bill he cosponsored in Congress was the bipartisan McCain-Feingold Act to regulate the financing of political campaigns, which was later passed and signed into law.

Specifically, the Democracy for All Amendment would:

  • Make clear the Constitution does not restrict the ability of Congress or the states to propose reasonable, viewpoint-neutral limitations on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections;
  • Distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities, including by prohibiting the latter from spending unlimited amounts of money to influence elections;
  • Allow states to enact public campaign financing systems, which can restrict the influence of corporate or private wealth; and
  • Take further steps to protect the freedom of the press in the case of future campaign finance-related legislation.

The legislation is cosponsored by Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), Henry C. ("Hank") Johnson (D-Ga.), John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.), André Carson (D-Ind.), Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Paul D. Tonko (D-N.Y.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.),  Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-N.J.),  Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Ami Bera, M.D. (D-Calif.), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Ed Case (D-Hawaii), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Ted W. Lieu (D-Calif.), Norma Torres (D-Calif.), Dwight Evans (D-Pa.), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Colin Allred (D-Texas), Sean Casten (D-Ill.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), Jesus G. "Chuy" Garcia (D-Ill.), Jared Golden (D-Maine), Andy Kim (D-N.J.), Susie Lee (D-Nev.), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), David Trone (D-Md.), Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.), Nikema Williams (D-Ga.), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-Fla.), Becca Balint (D-Vt.), Greg Casar (D-Texas), Chris Deluzio (D-Pa.), Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), Seth Magaziner (D-R.I.), Kevin Mullin (D-Calif.), and Jill Tokuda (D-Hawaii).

The legislation is also endorsed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, End Citizens United/Let America Vote Action Fund, Free Speech for People, People for the American Way, and Public Citizen.

“When ultra-wealthy donors and multi-national corporations get to spend unlimited money in politics, they drown out the voices of everyday Americans and advance distorted policies that are pushed by special interests,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, President of Common Cause. “We commend Representatives Schiff, Jayapal, McGovern, and Phillips for introducing the Democracy for All Amendment to amplify the voices of everyday voters because most Americans can’t hire a lobbyist, make a large campaign contribution, or start a super PAC.”

“Thirteen years after the Supreme Court handed down the Citizens United decision, we are still feeling its disastrous effects–and they’re getting worse. Each year, we see more and more dark corporate money pouring into our elections, letting billionaires and corporate America buy influence and power in Washington. We applaud the leadership of Rep. Schiff, Jayapal, McGovern and Phillips in working to fix our broken system by introducing the Democracy for All Amendment,” said Tiffany Muller, President of End Citizens United / Let America Vote Action Fund.

“Now more than ever, we must stand up to protect our republic. Across the political spectrum, Americans want a constitutional amendment that will reclaim our democracy,” says John Bonifaz, president and co-founder of Free Speech For People. "The Democracy For All Amendment would allow for overall campaign spending limits and public campaign financing systems and would end the big money dominance of our elections. We applaud the re-introduction of this amendment, and we urge Congress to pass it and send it to the states for ratification.”

“Ever since the Supreme Court’s disastrous ruling in Citizens United, it’s been impossible to stop the flood of outside money into our elections. A constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United is a critical step toward protecting our democracy against corruption that puts profits over people. We cannot allow ultra-wealthy individuals, corporations and special interests to buy elections and block everything we care about, including public safety, access to health care and housing, voting rights, and inclusive education. Democrats and Republicans in Congress must work together to prioritize the needs of all voters in every community with meaningful pro-democracy reforms that put power back into the hands of the people,” said Svante Myrick, President of People For the American Way.

“Our choice is clear: democracy for all or the plutocracy of the .0001 percent. If our nation is to live up to its great promise, and address its great challenges, we must pass and ratify the 28th amendment, which will give We the People – through Congress as well as state and local governments – the ability to limit campaign spending by Big Business and the super-rich,” said Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen.

Click here to read the full bill text.

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