Occupying Democracy: Amendments to Get Money out of Politics

By Russell SimmonsRussell Simmons

We have recently seen the massive expense of the political system on all levels, and we have joined forces to fight for our democracy. We refuse to let our future be auctioned off and sold to the highest bidder.
When the focus of our candidates has to be on raising money, it takes time away from working with the people on the actual critical issues.

Democracy is not for Sale

The future of our democracy cannot be for sale. Politicians must represent the people who elected them, not those who donated to their campaigns. All of the challenges that the American people face are grossly influenced by money in politics, and that is why we strongly support a constitutional amendment to restore our democracy and protect the people of this great nation.
A very broad coalition is uniting around this vital issue and it is just a matter of time before we reach critical mass. With the help of the GOOD community, we can soon reach a tipping point that forces historic political change.
Thousands of working groups are spread throughout the country, organizing toward the same goal: ending the corrupt culture that has consumed our government by getting money out of politics.
Ending the auction of our democracy has clearly emerged as a unifying issue, and it is at the root of the many problems that we are currently working to solve. Whatever issue is of most concern to you—healthcare, education, taxes, debt, war, environment, jobs, etc—it has become self-evident that the underlying cause of that particular problem is the corrupting influence of money in politics.
Through a system of legalized bribery—campaign finance, lobbying, and the revolving door between Washington and the most powerful global corporations—our government has devolved into a rigged system of exploitation.
It doesn’t matter what your political views are—left, right, center, democrat, republican, independent, conservative, liberal, progressive, libertarian, anarchist, communist, capitalist, socialist—if you believe in self-governance, self-determination, freedom, and justice, then ridding our governmental process of the corrupting influence of money must be an urgent strategic priority.
Our strategy moving forward inevitably needs to run on two tracks. Track one is achieving legitimate democracy by getting money out of our political process. Track two is creating the alternatives, so once we claim our rights, new ways of living can flourish and evolve our obsolete system of rule to a participatory, sustainable, and prosperous future, for “the 100%.”
For those of us paying attention, as Tom Paine explained, this is all “common sense.” So, let’s get to work and make this happen. We will focus our energy on striking at the root of evil by ending the system of political bribery that holds our future hostage.
As a first step in fixing our problems, we need a Constitutional Amendment that clearly states that “corporations are not people” and “money is not speech.” Until we make this first step to get money out of politics, all the changes we need to make urgently will not happen in a meaningful and significant way.

Get Money Out

Thankfully, there is huge momentum building on this front. Here’s a brief summation of the newly proposed amendments, courtesy of the Get Money Out campaign. Hopefully, with your leadership, one of these amendments, or elements of a few of them, will soon become the 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Rep. Ted Deutch—OCCUPIED (Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy)

Introduced by Congressman Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), the amendment reverses Citizen’s United by stating that corporations are not people under the Constitution, and that corporations are barred from making election-related expenditures. It authorizes Congress and the states to regulate all election contributions and expenditures, and reaffirms Congress’ right to regulate corporations.

Sen. Bernie Sanders—Saving American Democracy

Senator Bernie Sanders introduced an amendment in the Senate that mirrors the OCCUPIED amendment in the House. Introducing this “companion bill” in the Senate allows both houses of Congress to begin debate on the same bill without having to wait for the other to pass it.

Cenk Uygur, Wolf PAC

Wolf PAC, a group started by progressive TV and radio host Cenk Uygur, reverses corporate personhood and prohibits corporations from giving to any politician. The amendment also sets a cap of $100 on all political donations and it establishes a public system to fund political campaigns. Read the amendment.

Senator Tom Udall

Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) along with eight other Democratic Senators proposed an amendment that gives Congress the power to regulate all money spent on campaigns and outside political groups such as Super PACs. It allows states to regulate state elections in the same manner. It would clear the way for Congress to pass reform legislation that would limit spending and would withstand a challenge in the Supreme Court. Read the amendment.

Rep. Jim McGovern and Free Speech for People—The People’s Rights

Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) introduced the amendment with the support of Free Speech for People, a non-profit group that aims to end corporate personhood. The amendment states that people or persons as used in the Constitution does not include corporations and that corporations are subject to regulation by the people through their elected representatives. Read the amendment.

Public Citizen—Democracy is for People

Pursued by the non-profit group Public Citizen, the amendment would reverse the Citizen’s United decision and permit Congress to regulate political spending by corporations. The amendment has not been drafted into specific language, but is based on a set of core principles. Read those principles and get more information.

Rep. Donna Edwards

Introduced by Representative Donna Edwards (D-Md.), the amendment would overturn the Citizen’s United Supreme Court ruling by allowing Congress to regulate political spending by corporations.

Rep. Kurt Schrader,

Introduced by Representative Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), the amendment authorizes Congress and the states to regulate the contribution of all funds to candidates and the expenditure of funds to influence elections. Read the amendment.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur

Introduced by Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), the amendment authorizes Congress and the states to set limits on the contributions that may be accepted by and the expenditures that may be made in support or in opposition to candidates running for public office.

Move to Amend  

A group opposed to corporate personhood, Move to Amend, has proposed an amendment that would overturn Citizen’s United by affirming that corporations are not people and can be regulated, and that money is not speech and can be regulated.

Get Money Out

The amendment was proposed by the Get Money Out organization, which was started by MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan, and became a part of United Republic in late 2011. The amendment prohibits corporations from making political donations and affirms that political donations are not speech, which allows Congress to regulate them. It also makes election day a federal holiday.

Lawrence Lessig

Lawrence Lessig, Harvard professor and founder of Rootstrikers, which joined forces with United Republic in late 2011, introduced an amendment that prohibits corporations from contributing money to any candidate, limits campaign contributions to $100, and gives Congress the power to regulate outside campaign spending. It also establishes Election Day as a national holiday.
And of course,

Russell Simmons:

Originally announced in a speech to Occupy Boston protesters, the amendment establishes public funding of political campaigns and prohibits any political contributions from any source. It gives Congress the authority to design and enforce the public funding system. Read the full text of the amendment and watch the speech here.
Or better yet, come join the conversation. Join us for a panel and conversation on this topic at the second-annual LA GreenFestival on Saturday, November 17 at 2 p.m. PST. Tickets are available online.   Φ
Russell Wendell Simmons is an American business magnate. He and Rick Rubin founded the pioneering hip-hop label Def Jam. He also created the clothing fashion lines Phat Farm, Argyleculture, and American Classics.

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