This is the first installment in a series to explain why IMC’s Amending Campaign Spending Action Team, led by Ann Shea and Diane Riemer, is working toward a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United. The following excerpts were written by Jeff Clements, leader of American Promise and co-author of the For Our Freedom Amendment, written in 2020 by the Massachusetts Citizens Commission Concerning a Constitutional Amendment for Government of the People.
It’s time to repair our constitutional foundation with a 28th amendment [that will] limit big money in politics and guarantee political power to the people.
On September 17, 2022, we observed “… the completion of the Convention in Philadelphia… That day outside the hall, Ben Franklin famously answered a citizen’s question about what kind of government the Constitutional founders had created: “A republic, if you can keep it.”
That’s the key to the United States and the key point about our work together today. “A republic, if you — the people — can keep it.”
We call Franklin and Madison and Hamilton and Washington the Founders, and it is right that we celebrate them. But all Americans are Constitutional Founders, too.
Every generation of Americans has worked to keep our republic. Article V of the Constitution, which provides a process for constitutional amendments, is how we do it.
Constitutional amendments and the story of America
Constitutional amendments are the story of America. With them, we have resolved and won the most epic struggles and fulfilled the best aspirations of the nation. With amendments we created the Bill of Rights. An amendment was the culmination of our tragic Civil War, in which hundreds of thousands died to end slavery. Women fought for and won an amendment asserting their right to vote…
My American Promise Pocket Constitution has 34 pages of text. Roughly half of that text was not part of the Constitution that was signed in September 1787. These pages contain our 27 amendments, so far. Americans ratified the First Amendment in 1791 and the 27th Amendment 200 years later in 1992, with amendments in between across every generation.
Constitutional amendments are not easy. The 27 amendments so far did what many thought impossible — won two-thirds of Congress and were ratified in three-fourths of the States.
Amendments can be uphill fights and often require the reversal of Supreme Court decisions. Seven constitutional amendments did that. Amendments challenge and overturn powerful, entrenched interests and threatening oligarchs, from the slaveholders to the largest corporations and “robber barons” that controlled the United States Senate before the 17th Amendment.
Why an amendment?
On Constitution Day, we not only celebrate the first Founders and the Constitution they produced in 1787. We also honor the millions of unknown American citizens whose names and stories are lost to history but who proposed, organized, struggled and even died for the 27 amendments and the Constitution as we have it today. They, too, are Founders.
So are all of us today. That’s why it is our responsibility to win the 28th Amendment.
We will win the 28th Amendment to make sure that in America the people govern, not money — not the corporations, unions, super PACs or billionaires, but all the people. That is the promise of America: equal citizenship, equal responsibility, liberty for all and an equal vote for all.
A constitutional amendment is necessary because the Supreme Court has decided that contributing and spending money in elections — no matter if the source is a billionaire, a union or the largest global corporations in the world — is protected as “free speech.”
If we can’t limit the influence of concentrated power and money in our elections, our constitutional system falls apart. We go to oligarchy, where your right to govern comes from your wealth. That’s the choice: a representative democracy or government by the rich — an oligarchy. Either we uphold the values of a representative democracy or we allow greed and wealth to destroy the great American experiment in self-governance. Either we are a country that makes decisions based on the common good, or one where the size of your wallet determines the worth of your ideas.
The 28th Amendment will end the disastrous experiment in the theory that money is speech and corporations are people. It will stop the flood of special interest money and give Americans an equal right to participate and be represented as citizens in this republic.
The amendment is not the only thing we need to do, but it is the essential thing we need to do. It is like the foundation of our house. Our house is collapsing around us because our constitutional foundation is broken.
How can we do it?
Our strategy is built on three fundamentals. Successful amendments require three things:
A consensus of Americans must demand we do this. We need 67 Senators, 290 House members and ratification by 38 states. On both sides of the aisle, we must contact our representatives and let them know that this is a cross-partisan issue and we demand action.
We must make our consensus matter. That means voting — we need to turn our citizen consensus into votes in Congress and statehouses around the country.
Decentralized, networked grassroots action
We must be everywhere. We must empower each other to take action where we live. You can’t win amendments with a top-down strategy. We need all Americans taking action in our hometowns, connecting with friends, families and neighbors to come together to get this done.
Successes so far, goals for tomorrow
Good news: We have already accomplished the first step. We have national consensus. Democrats. Republicans. Independents. According to a recent study, 88 percent of Americans agree on the importance of getting big money out of politics.
This gets us to the next fundamentals of our strategy. It is essential that we turn the overwhelming support for our cause into a massive, connected, well-supported citizen movement with the power in every state to bring the Amendment through Congress and across the 38-state road to ratification.”
IMC’s Amending Campaign Spending (ACS) Action Team welcomes new members from each IMC group to meet once each month by Zoom to receive and report updates on the progress of proposed Constitutional Amendments like the Democracy for All Amendment now before Congress and the For Our Freedom Amendment proposal. If you’d like to become an ACS contact person, please email Ann Shea (Amend.Campaign.Spending@gmail.com). To learn more, visit us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/amending.campaign.spending) or invite us to speak to your IMC group.