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Very few people will deny that special interests such as corporations and associations, whether they be for profit or non-profit, exert enormous influence over our elections through PACs and other activities. It has proven almost impossible to control this because most attempts to do so run afoul of the First Amendment and the legal fiction that such organizations are "persons."
It will take an amendment to the Constitution to remove the conflict.
There is already one such proposal that is aimed at removing money from politics by prohibiting both direct and indirect contributions by any person to a federal race. I see several problems with this approach, not least of which is that it tramples over and removes existing First Amendment rights of natural persons.
I propose a different solution. Let us enact an amendment that states that only natural persons are deemed to be a person for purposes of the Constitution and all other entities are subject to definition as established by legislative law.
I think that this approach is better because it respects and strengthens the spirit of the Constitution by preserving the rights of real people while removing such rights from legal constructs. It restores the legal fiction of "corporate personhood" to its rightful place as being just that, a legal fiction that was meant to be used primarily to settle jurisdictional matters. Decisions such as Citizens United and other absurdities would be impossible with such an amendment in place.
It should also be recognized that such an amendment would allow states to pass regulations individually, whether in the state houses or by ballot measures brought by the voters. Even if Congress were not to act in a timely fashion, the states could do so on their own.
The end result is that political power would be restored to those who are actually capable of voting, and power would be taken away from those entities that can only manipulate the vote.
Note: this entry has since been published as a Letter to the Editor in the Las Vegas Sun on Dec 3, 2011. You can read it and the discussion about it here: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/dec/03/give-political-power-real-pe...
Here is a proposal by Move to Amend:
Section 1 [Corporations are not people and can be regulated]
The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.
Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.
The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.
Section 2 [Money is not speech and can be regulated]
Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.
Federal, State and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.
Nothing contained in this amendment shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.
Here is the link: http://movetoamend.org/amendment
Thanks, William, for pointing out that as usual I am a day late and a dollar short! :)
I had not heard of that proposal before, I was just basing mine on what I considered to be a logical approach. I can agree with most of what you posted, but have reservations about section 2.
I'd add a section that only registered voters can make campaign contributions, and then only to candidates that they can vote for.
I actually have thought about that, Twitchy. I'd like to restrict it to eligible voters for a given race. I would be very happy just to see contributions limited to eligible voters in the same state as a race to prevent out-of-state influence, but I suspect that would have trouble passing Constitutional muster.
Not if it's part of an amendment. 7;-]
True, but I would like to an amendment that introduces as few as possible internal contradictions. That is why I think the starting point is to explicitly state that the Constitution is for natural persons, not legal constructs. I am still thinking through the issue of money as speech.
Even what I am proposing could have side effects on commercial speech.
In any event, I think the Get Money Out proposal is a very bad attempt at solving a problem that needs to be solved. Yes, it would get corporate money out, but it also tramples over the First Amendment for natural persons, and that simply is wrong, in my opinion.
In this case, I think we're dealing more with money as votes than money as speech. In any event, it doesn't limit freedom of speech. Anyone could still say whatever they want. They just couldn't contribute monetarily to a political campaign unless they're a registered voter who can vote in that particular election.
Twitchy, change "registered voter" to "eligible voter" and I can agree with your statement. There is a very real distinction between the two in my mind.
There is, but I think that "registered voter" is exactly what we want. If they aren't going to bother to vote, should they be allowed to make political campaign contributions?
I'm late to the party and full UNBRIEFED, but logic dictates that we ask, " so when did institutions become human entities in terms of the Constitution?" In the normal legal area, the world is dvided into "natural person" and " entity", as is logical.
So when did politics do the Orwellian twist on that?
I'm not a member of the Whigs, but I do have a comment. I would be worried that just like every other law, rule, restriction on how money gets to parties and representatives, this one would fail because work arounds would be found.
For example, what would keep a group, corporation, union, entity from designating one individual (a natural person) in their group from being the conduit that is used to deliver the money? If the contribution amount was 'limited', you could just designate two, one hundred or even more individuals (natural persons) to contribute the money.
I am afraid it is just a fact that you cannot separate money from the political process.... because both people that 'want' something from government and those in government who 'benefit' from the money WANT THE MONEY IN THERE.
It's sad but I think it is true.
That's always going to be a problem, no matter what system you use. About all you can do is adjust as you gain experience.
Not much different from computer security. You close one vulnerability, they discover another.
WP and TW , your point is valid. What Jim says here, "but I would like to an amendment that introduces as few as possible internal contradictions." is what I like to term BONZAI regulation. BONZAI meaning the least amount to do the most. This would require the wording to reflect Jim's thought, and I think it is possible to word such a reg to have the desired effect.
I first coined the term "bonzai" reg to tackle the problem of most regulation being so costly to implement as to put its efficacy into question on the face of it. I beleive this characteristic typifies 90%+ of what passes as law.
And it is something we cannot afford any longer. Further, not being "bonzai!" about it requires a continued rollout of the federal juggernaut. So bonzai is about both efficacy/cost and controlling undue Federal influence.
I am new here so forgive me for both my directness and my pseudonym. I am a vet and a former Republican who has been an independent since the GOP went off the deep end following 9/11. I am looking for a party that might actually come close to my personal views and the MWP seems close. I have two questions relevant to this discussion and the MWP:
1. Does the MWP have an official position on corporate personhood?
2. Have you seen the Constitutional Amendment proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders on this issue? http://sanders.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/S.J.Res..pdf
I hope to get to know you and this party a bit more as we begin the 2012 election cycle...I may even be tempted to run for office again myself (I was an elected city commissioner in New Mexico back in the Gary Johnson days), but would prefer to help others win elections rather than become a face man again. ;)
the Federal Farmer
Ref #2 - Does Section 1 include unions and other 'non-profit' corporate entities? I think that it should be more explicit, that Constitutional rights, in general, are limited to natural persons, except for obvious exceptions such as freedom of the press.
This purposal is in my opinion a bad idea.
That's the problem with politics today. Too many people want a one-size fits-all federal intervention.
This should be left up to the States. If a corporation wants to operate in multiple states, it needs to abide by each state. Competetion is best in capitalism; this includes states competing with each other.
The Constitution is fine how it is, we just need to abide by it.
Corporations are not the problem. Chrony-capitalism, Keynesian economics, the Federal Reserve, and worthless paper money are.
Corporations do not have rights, they have subsidies and entitlements granted to them by big government. However, corporations are made up of people. If an individual breaks a law they should be held accountable.
The solutions to our problems reside in the people, and with states. Not in Washington D.C.
The influence of money will always dominate politics, even in socialism or communism. The solution is to not give government the power of control. Returning control to the states would also minimize the gross polarization in American politics, as it is natural that the 'melting pot' will never agree on issues that are placed where they don't belong.
A true free-market system based on Austrian Economics is what we need, not more regulation which strangles entrepreneurism and job grow. Individuals should be held accountable by individuals. Ever dollar you spend is a vote of your approval. The richer you are, the more influence you have. If you by cheap crap from Wal-Mart, you are saying it's ok to ship jobs overseas. Your actions should abide by your talk. America was founded on personal responsibility... not cheap talk and government regulation.
Sounds like a good idea, but will this necessarily end the practice of politicians being in the pocket of business leaders? Even if corporations can't provide campaign funds, these business leaders have the power to get around the law and exert influence in other ways.
I'm just curious, who do you suppose ExxonMobil votes for, how about Moveon.org? :-)
It brings me to a suggestion I have for campaign finance reform, and that is that all corporations and other organizations would be banned from contributing to political campaigns. At the same time, individuals would be allowed to contribute as much as they want, but only their own money, not pooled money.
It is based on the idea that only individuals (natural born persons) are able to vote, so only indiviuals could contribute to a campaign.
Fred, sounds much like my idea, except I'd limit contributions to campaigns that you are registered to vote in.
A big first step is to get the SCOTUS "decision" that has been used to make corporations people reviewed and clarified.
The case it is based on an 1886 case aghe court never made a decsion. The court clerk( who worked previously for the railroads) wrote his own summary into the court summary on the headnote.
There is not original case law based on a court decision to back the Citizens United decision.
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is just the latest in bad Supreme Court rulings going back hundreds of years. We absolutely do need a Constitutional Amendment that reverts our understanding of Corporations to the English Common Law which was that of “Artificial Persons.” It also needs to overturn Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United and then reinstitute the protections of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (McCain–Feingold Act).
I would love the MWP to overtly support this, but that might be a bad idea if the MWP is ever going to try to become a funded organization lol
How many eligible but not registered voters donate to a campaign? It seems to me like that an eligible voter who gives to a candidate is likely to vote for that candidate.
Rockingham, not sure I get the point of your question.
Why is free speech such a bad thing?
How can it be acceptable to wander the streets, spending money as needed for new footwear or otherwise travel, haranguing passersby, but somehow unacceptable to spend money to print pamphlets and distribute them?
How could that be construed as acceptable but it be unacceptable to get together with a number of friends and combine your money on such expenditures?
Why is it acceptable for candidates to collect and spend such money but not private individuals?
Why is it acceptable for media organizations to engage in such activities but not private citizens?
Free speech is free speech, which includes written, audio, and film materials.
Money is required for those.
Pooling of money requires incorporation.
There is evil in faction, but greater evil in trying to suppress it.
I disagree with you. Due to numerous Supreme Court decisions, this issue can only be resolved at the Federal level by an amendment to the Constitution. Additionally, in compliance of the Uniform Commercial Code, business contracts and transactions in one state are enforced in all states.
One of the behaviors of corporations is to limit competition. The final goal of all corporations is monopoly. As corporations become more powerful they eliminate competition. That is what makes Wal Mart so dangerous. Wal Mart uses its rights as an individual to force its way into communities that do not want it and then uses its economic leverage to undersell local businesses until they can no longer compete and are forced to close. People shop at Wal Mart because there is no other place for them to shop.
Corporations do have rights. The exact same rights as you and I do as outlined in the Bill of Rights. But, unlike you and I, they cannot go to jail. They are not a living and breathing person. BP PLC has agreed to plead guilty to charges related to the workers' deaths on Deepwater Horizon, none of the company's onshore engineers or executives is accused of wrongdoing in the indictment unsealed last Thursday. Who is going to go to jail? Two non-BP rig supervisors. BP will have to pay $4.5 billion. I’m sure they can afford it.
Our problems with corporations is a Federal issue. Not only due to the fact it will take an amendment to end this charade but they have an enormous undue influence on all of our elected and non-elected officials. How many of Secretaries of the Treasury, Federal Reserve and Heads of the New York Fed used to work at Goldman–Sachs? Who authored the Bush prescription drug plan? Why do oil companies that make record profits each quarter receive subsidies from the Federal government? Who do you think created and forced the Federal Reserve onto the American people? Since you quoted Rep. Ron Paul, read his book “End the Fed.”
A true free market system without any rules and regulations does not exist anywhere in the world. It exists only in the academic classroom. If there was a pure free market system in the United States, we would never have survived the era of the Robber Barons. The end game of unregulated capitalism is a single corporation that has absorbed all other corporations after they have wiped out all smaller businesses. It was the lack of regulation of Wall Street banking that lead to the collapse in 2008. When hedge funds and derivatives were first created in the early 80’s Wall Street “worked” with Congress to leave them unregulated since they would only be traded between the big banks and they could police their own industry.
I believe this is the single most important issue in restoring power to “We the People.” Until we can control campaign contributions, lobbyists, corporate appointees and other corporate influences in Washington DC the people will suffer. I believe this is a cause the Whig party should champion and work with the organizations already in place to earn its position as a viable and influential third party.
Anytime anyone mentions amending the Constitution, I figuratively put my hand on my sidearm.
And there is a simple and good reason for that. Ladies and gentlemen, you dont have to have me, a know-nothing, tell you what you already viscerally feel. We have no real leadership amongst the twins, and we are too fractured as an electorate to properly collaborate on anything that critical. Its as simple as that.
While I surely agree with my compatriot Jim in principle, I finally had a chance to review the actual court opinions ( still not entirely comprehensively), and concluded that as they held campaign contributions as free speech before, this was no more than a logical extension of that. In fact, they did not truly call corporations people, but pools of people.
The selling out of America continues unabated, and the corrupting influence of money, power and security ( self) still remain after countless years of ideas, proposals, etc etc.
In a guerilla war, one often has to come at the target objective by knocking out two or three ancillary, but critical, seemingly minor objectives. Maybe "flanking" might be a better analogy for some.
In our internal discussions, we have ratiocinated that possibly, a potentially very effective flanking manouever here would be the ballot itself.
So we, MWP, are gearing for a national campaign to INSIST that our elected representives require Approval Voting on all Federal Ballots. Too tangential to the money issue you say? Well, keep it to yourselves, and dont tell the LINOs about it.
Empirical validation: Results from the last election might prove otherwise. Even in the face of large outspending by one side, the other side won. The people's voice, in the collective cellular, was heard. There are multiple reasons for this, but the spending by super pacs had a horrible return on investment.
We beleive, if we alter balloting to make "voting one's conscience" much more mathematically relevant, that the effect we just empirically witnessed might be magnified, and that possibly, the corrupting influence of money in politics can be mitigated on the demand side by our seeeingly tangential targeting of the ballot itself.
Given that attempting constraint on the supply side have been teats on a bull hog for how long now, why would our small band of Whig rebels throw our small cache of ammunition after bad, I ask ye?
An “Abused” Fiction?
Corporations, like Unions, Associations, and Nations, are groups of people.
They have just as much right to speech, even if it is in the form money, as Unions, Associations, Political Action Committees and Political parties.
I invest part of my earnings in the Stock Markets, In Corporations, and those Corporations represent me. Who are you to deny me my right to free speech?
You want to limit the effect of Money on the Political Process? Then you limit all Donations to 1000 dollars per person. That is not 1000 dollars per campaign, politician, or party that is 1000 dollars per donor a year.
Because the argument made about how it is wrong for a corporation to have so much power applies to anyone else who donates more money than say I, or you, or the old lady down the street .
Or better yet, 1000 dollars tax free per donor per year. That does not mean that you get a tax deduction, that means that that the donation itself is not taxed when it is donated. After that lets say 50% goes to a reduce the debt (not the deficit) fund. Donate $1001.00 and .50 goes to the debt fund. You can give 10,000 dollars and the candidate gets 5,500 and 4,500 goes to the debt.
Because you are all buying into a BS line from a party that takes nearly as much corporate money as the other party and takes a hell of a lot more from Unions and PACS that the other party will ever see. But that is not what they were complaining about. The want no “Corporate” Money, but they want the ability of Unions to divert Union Dues to Political Campaigns protected.
What is gravy the Goose should go with the Gander as well.
And while we are at it, all PACS and Unions will be taxed at the corporate Tax Rate, because otherwise, it would not be fair.
My understanding of free speech is that you can say within limitations whatever you would choose to say. You can’t yell fire in a crowded theater is the common example. Free speech is the ability to say what you want and in that manner I can say what I want as can a corporation however, the money issue is like the volume control. Free speech is not the guarantee to be heard so like a loud stereo on the street, there are perhaps limits on how loudly the message can be delivered.
By investing your earnings or my earnings in the stock market, in corporations does not mean they politically represent you. They only represent your investment in that they are obligated to try to make a profit. I invest in mutual funds that invest in stocks of corporations and I have no clue what those corporations political positions are nor do they mine so they cannot possibly and should not suppose that they represent my political viewpoints. Suppressing corporate investment in political outcomes should be on the table and considered.
In this country we have a huge call to separate church and state. With the enormous influence at various periods of time it has come to my mind that we may need a new way of approaching an old issue. In the late 1800’s there was a populist outcry against the “moneyed interests” and Teddy Roosevelt (the trust buster) was very instrumental in creating anti-trust laws such as the Clayton Act, the Sherman Act and later the development of the Packers and Stockyard Act. At a time before the depression we had a President that said America’s business is big business much like the mantra what is good for the Corporations is good for America. These are not true in that America is also about people - As Abraham Lincoln stated, of the people, by the people and for the people. Yet today we have many that have embraced too big to fail, by not putting forth measures to limit the size and scope of corporate activity.
I have just read two books “REPUBLIC LOST” and “COME HOME AMERICA” which are left of where I come from but bring up some very interesting points. The house of representatives is supposed to represent people and yet with campaign structure they currently represent the contributors. I once asked a US Senator if he had an issue that affected a 500 head cow calf rancher, did he go to the producer to get information on how to respond or did he go to a big packer like Con-Agra (at the time, since Swift and now JBS – a foreign corporation) and he laughed and said “Neither”. I asked, then how do you get information and develop a position on a proposed law? He said Con-Agra and Tyson already had lobbyists in his office to help him understand the issue. This is not uncommon.
Let me get back to the concept of separation of church and state. It is my contention that we need to create a Separation of Business and State. This becomes a very interesting issue and for some a very emotional discussion. Besides the money flow there is also an issue of people flow, the revolving door. Right now in D.C. corporations that trade derivatives are hiring CFTC (Commodity Futures Trading Commission) employees because they need to know how to play the derivatives game with the new rules. CFTC will hire from the corporations to get trader expertise and the employee loves it because they start low in the company, go to the CFTC and then can come back to the private sector with huge value for government contacts and training. This is a shift from the SEC (Security Exchange Commission) I have seen this in many areas of government, USDA and all its divisions have this as a common thread.
Why is this a problem? Federal Agencies, what is their purpose? Is it to regulate industries? De-regulation is a term with a lot of meaning but most citizens think of regulation as “red tape”. In the late 1970’s we started a process of deregulation. We deregulated regulated businesses like telephones and airlines which gave us huge opportunity for economic growth, however we didn’t put in place anything to control the monopolization of specific industries and thus we end up with “too big to fail”. Regulation should be much like T. Roosevelt believed, walk lightly and carry a big stick. If you do the crime you do the time, but we have allowed corporations to influence law and regulations to a point that corporations are not accountable for their actions. The fines are record in size but are merely a cost of doing business to a surviving corporation with the profitability and tax structure (off shore) we have today. What is the difference between a government that runs all business (communism) and a business that runs all government? Neither has as their first priority the people and their nation’s best interests, the people that make it possible.
I don’t disagree that unions and PAC’s should also have limitations so I am intrigued by your solution of limitations.
My final thoughts are a reflection on the polarization between the two parties we see today. I am very dismayed with the name calling I see on the street and concerned of so many oversimplifications. I participated in a travel study program and had a rural rancher comment to me that he wasn’t on welfare like the people in the cities. He takes what the market will give and competes by raising quality cattle. He said that as we stood under a public power line bringing him electricity, and we looked at a county road, that led to a state highway, that led to a federal highway and the interstate system all subsidized. The telephone is subsidized by the public service commission and on and on. This same person felt that democrats are socialists. I hear those terms thrown out and it brings to my mind that we need a conversation about what kind of capitalism we want. Unfettered, laze-faire, or a capitalism that works in a representative republic that considers the best future for the people of a sovereign nation; Capitalism that supports free enterprise and the entrepreneurial spirit by allowing new entrants into the market place and limiting the collusionary domineering power of corporations and government.
OK, I understand, you do not like the concept of Free Speech, as defined by the Supreme Court. But remember what the Supreme Court actually said.
That it would be Unconstitutional to apply limits only on certain types of speech, and the application of the restrictions, corporate speech, but not on any other similar organizations.
Let us take this farther, No one is forced to buy stock or invest in a company, many are forced, by Law in various states, to join Unions. As well, many “Non-Profits” receive funds through Federal Block Grants and then turn around and donate to, almost exclusively Democrat, campaigns. In the Law Enforcement profession, we call that a kick back. What Americans United was about was an attempt to use the Law to curtail the free speech of one interest group, while protecting expanding the speech rights of other interest groups.
Congress could pass a Law and it could be signed by the Executive very easily, and it would stand up to Supreme Court scrutiny on Constitutional grounds very easily. All it would have to be is fairly applied without respect to political orientation.
And I am sorry, you are in error, the people whom I invest my money with have an obligation to look after my self interest when they have my investment. And in the United States, just as much right as any Union Member does with his Union, Every member of the AARP, Planned Parenthood, ACORN, The NRA, The Chamber of Commerce, The National Teachers Association, NBC, ABC, CBS ad yes even those corporations known as the Modern Whig Party, Democratic Party or Republican Party.
None are more, are less, credible and deserving, of Free Speech, as any of the others. Unless you judge purely on which one agrees with your particular Ideology. And that is what the Supreme Court said.
And to explain some basic public budgeting to you. A ‘Public” Power Line was paid for by the members and customers of the Utility. The Government may have guaranteed the Capital improvement Loans, or more likely from a Bond sale, but it was the Utility, by collecting fees from subscribers, that pays off the Loan, with interest.
The County Roads, generally through Municipal Bonds, are financed and paid for by taxes called user fees. This is a County Tax on Gas, Vehicle Registration (Wheel Tax) and so forth.
Federal Highways are paid for through the Federal Gas Tax, and some of them start out as State Roads financed through user fees or tolls. And that Tax generates plenty of money, and to much of it is diverted to bridges to no where or “Greenways”
If you want to screw with ranchers, look to agricultural subsidies. Not Public Utilities.
Generally the only time something has to be subsidized, it was a bad idea to begin with, see mass transit for an example.
Contrary to what you and Elizabeth Warren, most of the things you claim are gifts to, as Warren says, or to the Rancher as you say, were paid for by Taxes called users fees, not from some big pot of money labeled the” people’s money”.
Duffy, I am not sure if you're respnding to "heartland" or not. Some of heartland's comments are spot on, particularly the ones concerning lobby groups.
Lobbyists are where the information assymetry gets borne all the while serving as the "prostitutes" pimp-daddies.
Here in NY our message is simple, we wont call for outlawing lobbyists, which some may consider free speech, but we will call for total transparency of contributions AND discussions between lobbyists and ANY elected representatives. C-Span it. Video tape it, OR it's not legal and the lobby group can be banned from the lobby.
We'll kick folks out of MWP for the infraction, while the two big guys dont give a rats tail about their members ethics unless it effects the org.
Oh, I completely agree with transparency, and I mean on both sides of the transaction. Both the recipient, the Politician, and the corporation, union, non-profit foreign agency/agent, whatever should have report on every penny they receive or give.
I will go further, any organization that receives taxpayer money without providing a product or service to the Government; they should not be allowed to donate to political causes.
But again, no corporation or organization has inherently more right to buy politicians than another.
The dynamic I see is that we keep using the FEC et al to provide disclosures, but it has no effect whatsoever on the continued "sell out" and the simple fact that we cannot hold these individuals to any sort of fiduciary standard.