The Udall Resolution to Amend U.S. Constitution is Inadequate

On September 11, the U.S. Senate voted 54-42 to break the filibuster on the resolution to send to the States a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.  The Democrats all voted to break the filibuster but did not invoke the "nuclear option" that would allow that 54-42 vote to prevail.  Instead, the Democrats allowed the Republicans to "win" with only 42 votes, thereby blocking a vote on the resolution itself.  Thanks, Democrats.  Of course, since such a resolution requires 2/3 affirmative votes in both houses of Congress, it would not be adopted by the current Congress.

The piece below shows that the resolution left much to be desired, anyway.

-- Dan Meek

As the US Senate moves to vote on the Udall proposed constitutional amendment to address the effects of the US Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, let's be clear.

by David Delk

We need a single constitutional amendment that says:
*Corporations are not people and do not have constitutional rights, and
*
money is not speech, it is property and shall be subject to regulation at all levels of government.
 
From the sounds of the letters received as well as the emails, our democracy can only be saved from the plutocrats and corporatists if we sign the petitions and contribute some money to endorse passage of Senate Joint Resolution 19, the so-called Udall amendment. According to the letter dated August 13, 2014, from Public Citizen, “Senators Cantwell and McCaskill just announced that they will vote for our constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, McCutcheon and all the other disastrous Supreme Court decisions that are handing effective control of our democracy over to giant corporations and a tiny cabal of super-wealthy individuals.”
 
We agree with Public Citizen that this is a crucial time for our democracy and that urgent action is required. But is Senator Tom Udall's (D-NM) Amendment (SRJ19) the right amendment? Will it do what it is hyped to do?
 
Oregon Progressive Party says “Get some teeth in that”
 
We need a proposed constitutional amendment with some teeth, something that will really do what Public Citizen suggests the Udall Amendment will do, but actually would not.
 
What is wrong with the Udall Amendment?
  • First, it says “Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.” We have all been told that our cities and counties and other local governments are the fountain of democratic reforms, of fresh ideas, indeed, are the great laboratory of democracy. So why leave these local levels of democratic experimentation out when it comes to setting limits on controlling special interests (usually read as corporate interests) in the political process.
  • Next, what about the spending of money in initiative, referendum and referral campaigns? The proposed language does not clearly include an ability to regulate and set limits for such campaigns. Just thinking of the large sums of uncontrolled money spent in California and Washington in the past few years to defeat GMO labeling initiatives should demonstrate the need to include these elections within the proposed constitutional amendment language.
  • And who will decide what a reasonable limit is?  Ultimately, such questions will go back to the courts.  We need to be sure that the courts who have done so much to replace democracy with plutocracy are not the deciders.  How do we do that?  For one, don't use terms like "reasonable limits" which invite court review.  Just say that Congress and the States (and local governments) can enact limits.

  • Section 2 of the Udall amendment says that “Congress and the States …. may distinguish between natural persons and corporations and other artificial entities created by laws...” Contrast that language with that in the “We the People” proposed amendment (HJR29) from Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI):
Section 1. [Artificial Entities Such as Corporations Do Not Have Constitutional Rights]
The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.
Artificial 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.
 
We want a constitutional amendment that is clear that corporations are not natural people and therefore do not have constitutional rights. We do not want an amendment which allows Congress to “maybe” distinguish between corporations and natural persons. Congress has had decades to address the question of corporate constitutional rights; they never have. Why? Because Congress is bought and sold by those very same corporate interests. The likelihood that, having been given permission, Congress would develop the backbone to do so is slim to nil. Best that we have a constitutional amendment that does it directly.
 
We need a constitutional amendment that says that Corporations are not people and do not have constitutional rights
and that money is not speech--it is property and shall be subject to regulation at all levels of government.
 
What should you say to your Senators?
 
Thank you, Senator XXX, for considering a Constitutional Amendment to end Citizen’s United and the many other Supreme Court decisions which are destroying our democracy.
 
The Udall amendment (SJR19) is not adequate. It is defective for these reasons: (pick your reasons from the above). An adequate amendment would say clearly and boldly that Corporations Are Not People, and that Money Is Not Speech. Such an amendment has already been proposed: The “We The People Amendment”, HJR29, introduced by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI). Please introduce this proposal into the Senate, add your name as a co-sponsor and promote it among your colleagues. (HJR29 is supported by our friends at Alliance for Democracy and by Move to Amend)
 
Because SJR19 has also been introduced in the House (HJR119), call your US Representative as well with the same message.
 
Take more action!
But don’t stop there. Organize a meeting in your community and write a letter to the editor. It’s time to take back our democracy from the corporatocracy.
 
Find your US Senator here. Find your US Representative here
List of Senate co-sponsors here.
List of Representative co-sponsors here.

Any amendment should be

Any amendment should be clear. But if it is about law then it must be flexible with the country’s constitution. Thank you for this good stuff.

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