Bernie Sanders introduces the Saving American Democracy Amendment, needs our support

Late last week, Senator Bernie Sanders proposed a constitutional amendment to correct the judicial travesty known as Citizens United vs. the Federal Elections Commission. Following is a clip from the Senator’s press release.

Warning that “American democracy in endangered,” Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday proposed a constitutional amendment to overturn a Supreme Court ruling that allowed unrestricted and secret campaign spending by corporations on U.S. elections. The first constitutional amendment ever proposed by Sanders during his two decades in Congress would reverse the narrow 5-to-4 ruling in Citizens United vs. the Federal Elections Commission.

In that controversial decision almost two years ago, justices gave corporations the same First Amendment free-speech rights as people.

“There comes a time when an issue is so important that the only way to address it is by a constitutional amendment,” Sanders said of the effort to override the court decision that he labeled “a complete undermining of democracy.”

Sanders’ Saving American Democracy Amendment would make clear that corporations are not entitled to the same constitutional rights as people and that corporations may be regulated by Congress and state legislatures. It also would preserve the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press. It would incorporate a century-old ban on corporate campaign donations to candidates, and establish broad authority for Congress and states to regulate spending in elections.

Sanders proposal in the Senate is a companion measure to a constitutional amendment introduced in the House by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.). “The dominance of corporations in Washington has imperiled the economic security of the American people and left our citizens profoundly disenchanted with our democracy,” the congressman said. “I look forward to working with Sen. Sanders to save American democracy by banning all corporate spending in our elections and cracking down on secret front groups using anonymous corporate cash to undermine the public interest”…

The Deutch proposal in the House, you might be interested to know, is called Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy, or OCCUPIED. It’s also worth noting, I think, that the 2010 midterm elections saw, “nearly $4 billion in campaign spending, breaking all records.” I know I don’t have to tell you this, but our elections are being bought in the United States, and we’ve made it legal for high net worth individuals to do so.

In order to be successful, these amendments would have to be approved by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate, and then be ratified by three-quarters of the states. It’s an incredibly difficult process by design, and the odds are against Sanders, Deutch. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should just sit by idly, waiting for it to fail. I intend to contacted my elected officials on Monday, asking whether or not they support the legislation, and I’d like to ask for you to do the same… You can find contact information for your elected officials here.

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  1. alan2102
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Someone, please, give me a good argument for believing that my “elected officials” give a god damn what I think.

  2. Edward
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    There is absolutely NO reason for a member of Congress to be against this…… unless, of course, they’re beholden to corporate America.

  3. Rebate
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    No problem here as long as it includes “Unions” in the wording!

  4. General Demetrious
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    Neither Unions, nor the NRA would be included. They are groups of individuals, and in both cases, members elect their boards according to their goals.

    Contrast that with the Koch brothers, two individuals heading a private, for profit corporation, and who spend millions of corporate dollars not of the individuals in their corporation, but for the shareholders of their corporation, of which they are the majority holders.

    I all that corporate money working. It tricked you into equating Unions with corporations, didn’t it?

    Sheep get slaughtered, patriots live free.

  5. K2
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, don’t you guys remember when unions caused the Wall Street collapse with their fraudulent deals? How about when unions conspired with Cheney, as part of his still secret energy task force to take over Iraq? I could go on and on, but I think you can probably get my drift.

  6. Homebrew
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Chief Bobblehead is still blaming GWB after 3 years. Please Lord give us hope! Please Lord give us faith! Please Lord give us light! Why light ? The Nation is in a very dark period lately and with just a little light, maybe, just maybe the liberals and independents will be able to find their senses and vote for someone other than the moron we have now as President.

  7. Meta
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    Little Steven Van Zandt on the Huffington Post:

    A quick analysis of our electoral process revealed the obvious answer. The simple fact is we do not live in a democracy. Certainly not the kind our Founding Fathers intended. We live in a corporate dictatorship represented by, and beholden to, no single human being you can reason with or hold responsible for anything.

    The corporation has but one obligation, which is to increase profits for it’s shareholders by any legal means necessary by the next fiscal quarter.

    They have no moral, patriotic, social, environmental, generational or even sustainable responsibility. They have only a short-term economic mandate and their only responsibility to society is to stay within the law to accomplish it.

    This doesn’t mean corporations shouldn’t exist or even that their directors are evil by their very DNA. It has been a legally acceptable basic flaw in the form of our capitalist system that allows corporations to operate without a moral compass or obligation to society — but that’s a discussion for another day.

    The law is rarely a problem because the corporations’ legal obligations are pretty much designed first and foremost for their maximum profit by the legislation created by the legislators belonging to our two national political parties, both of which are wholly bought, sold and controlled by Wall Street. The banks and the corporations. In other words the game is rigged. Feel like a sucker? We all do because we all are.

    The manipulation, aided by a very willing media also owned by the corporations, has made things easier beginning with what has become the amazing Orwellian staple of every newscast, selling the public on the lie that the Dow has somehow become America’s scoreboard!

    We’re all hypnotized, rooting for them like they’re our home team at a football game, cheering for THEIR scoreboard mindlessly forgetting WE’RE THE AWAY TEAM!!

    You think your congressman is working all day to get you a job? He may want to. He or she is probably not a bad person. They probably want to do the right thing. But they can’t. Long-time Capitol Hill staff and campaign strategists tell me the average legislator spends one-third of their time (or more) every day raising money or on activities related to raising money.

    Yes, they are “elected” which creates the mass delusion of democracy to keep the masses from rioting, but congressional races are costing millions of dollars and some Senate seats are going for tens of millions each, and they’re predicting well over one billion dollars for the next presidency.

  8. EOS
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    How can anyone support such ignorance? The man is a Senator and yet does not comprehend the fact that America is not a democracy and has never been a democracy. Were it a democracy there would be no need to amend the Constitution – a simple majority vote could change the law. The United States form of government is a constitutional republic. We have 3 separate branches of government, checks and balances, and a majority of votes cannot usurp the rights of a minority. A democracy is mob rule. A republic is a form of government where elected officials are limited in their use of power by a written constitution and their decisions are subjected to judicial review.

  9. Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    EOS, don’t I recall you saying on this site that you supported legislation refuting the Roe v. Wade decision? If so, I think your last comment is pretty funny…

  10. Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    Furthermore, I don’t really get why all of you on the right seem so keen on keeping things as they are. It would seem to me that there might be some common ground to be had here. What is it about this amendment that you find so objectionable? Do you really think that corporations, and wealthy people… like Georeg Soros…. should be able to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence American elections?

  11. EOS
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    Could you elaborate? I don’t see your point. The current Supreme Court can certainly revisit Roe v. Wade.

  12. Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Yes, but I believe you indicated that you supported a legislative solution. At any rate, I find your argument to be silly. There exists a process for amending the constitution, as I mentioned in the post. Doing so is not a violation of U.S. law.

  13. EOS
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    He called it the “Saving American Democracy Amendment”. We’re not a democracy. I didn’t say that amending the constitution was unlawful.

  14. Posted December 11, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    I misunderstood your comment. I thought that you were saying that he shouldn’t be seeking a legislative solution, as the Supreme Court had already ruled. Your issue, as I now understand it, isn’t with the content of his amendment, but with one word in its title.

  15. EOS
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    The best thing that wealthy people and corporations can do with their money to benefit the most people is to spend it, put it in circulation, employ others. Why would you think it is better if we force them to keep it in bank accounts or under the mattress?

  16. Edward
    Posted December 12, 2011 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    So, you’re arguing that corporate spending on elections is a good thing because it puts money into the economy? And you think that benefit outweighs the associated negatives?

  17. EOS
    Posted December 12, 2011 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Yes. The money spent by corporations on elections is offset by the funds spent by unions and PACS. None of it affects my vote.

  18. Meta
    Posted December 12, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    From Bill Moyers:

    Rarely have so few imposed such damage on so many. When five conservative members of the Supreme Court handed for-profit corporations the right to secretly flood political campaigns with tidal waves of cash on the eve of an election, they moved America closer to outright plutocracy, where political power derived from wealth is devoted to the protection of wealth. It is now official: Just as they have adorned our athletic stadiums and multiple places of public assembly with their logos, corporations can officially put their brand on the government of the United States as well as the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the fifty states.

    The decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission giving “artificial entities” the same rights of “free speech” as living, breathing human beings will likely prove as infamous as the Dred Scott ruling of 1857 that opened the unsettled territories of the United States to slavery whether future inhabitants wanted it or not. It took a civil war and another hundred years of enforced segregation and deprivation before the effects of that ruling were finally exorcised from our laws. God spare us civil strife over the pernicious consequences ofCitizens United, but unless citizens stand their ground, America will divide even more swiftly into winners and losers with little pity for the latter. Citizens United is but the latest battle in the class war waged for thirty years from the top down by the corporate and political right. Instead of creating a fair and level playing field for all, government would become the agent of the powerful and privileged. Public institutions, laws, and regulations, as well as the ideas, norms, and beliefs that aimed to protect the common good and helped create America’s iconic middle class, would become increasingly vulnerable. The Nobel Laureate economist Robert Solow succinctly summed up the results: “The redistribution of wealth in favor of the wealthy and of power in favor of the powerful.” In the wake of Citizens United, popular resistance is all that can prevent the richest economic interests in the country from buying the democratic process lock, stock, and barrel.

    The rest of the article can be found here:

  19. james williams
    Posted December 12, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Pointing out that America is ‘not a Democracy but a Republic’ is not very useful. You could limit the number of actual democracies in history to one: classical Athens- it’s not a very workable system on a large scale.

    As for “Republics”, there have been legion. The U.S.S.R. was a “Republic” as is modern-day Iran. The difference in our Republic (and in other modern republics like Germany or Italy) is that our leaders are elected democratically.

  20. EOS
    Posted December 12, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    With the exception of the President, who is chosen by the electoral college.

  21. james
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 3:33 am | Permalink

    and the electoral college is currently… elected democratically, and are pledged to vote for a certain candidate.

    Yes- theoretically, they could get together and elect someone they are not pledged to elect, but that would last a total of one election before all the states made laws against faithless electors.

    The United States is a representative democracy, which is a form of a Republic.

  22. Edward
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Since corporations, as I understand it, no longer have to declare their money spent influencing U.S. elections, I know that data is hard to come by, but does anyone know if any figures for corporate money vs. union money in the last election? My guess is that union money is dwarfed by that of wealthy individuals and corporations. And, for what it’s worth, I agree with EOS about union money. I think it should be eliminated as well. I’m all for the public funding of elections. Can we agree on that, EOS?

  23. EOS
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    The United States relies on representative democracy, but its system of government is much more complex than that. It is not a simple representative democracy, but a constitutional republic in which majority rule is tempered. It is beyond question that our founding fathers absolutely abhorred democracy, which is why the word isn’t even mentioned in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. It is mentioned only in the Federalist Papers where James Madison completely opposed the creation of a democracy.

    Our founding fathers formed a government of limited powers in which the basic freedoms of American citizens were constitutionally protected against encroachment by any branch of government. All of this worked fairly well until the turn of the last century when socialists began to change America from a constitutional republic with limited powers into a European style parliamentary social democracy with unlimited powers, thus abolishing our God-given individual liberties. Their plan was to end our constitutional republic.

    But what the socialists didn’t count on was the rising up of the majority of the American people in opposition to their scheme. The Tea Party movement is determined to restore America’s form of government to what the Founding Fathers gave us. They will not accept an Obama style cradle to grave reliance on benevolent government handouts, nor will they sit by idly while the Patriot Act and other Emergency powers destroy all our freedoms.

  24. EOS
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 8:19 am | Permalink


    No, I don’t agree. I would support full disclosure of all campaign contributions and no restrictions placed on American citizens in this process.

  25. Eel
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    So, you wouldn’t mind if George Soros bought everyone in America a turkey and a keg of beer on Thanksgiving, and had them picked up a few weeks later and driven to the polls? That would be alright with you?

    And here’s a better question. Do you really believe that corporations have your best interests at heart?

  26. EOS
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Soros could provide a limo ride to the polls for every American and I could care less. It’s still a private ballot. I’m not sure if election laws allow outright gifts like a turkey and a keg.

    Consider if Donald Trump decided to spend a gazillion dollars on his campaign for president. Would you be more likely to vote for him as a result? Either Soros or Trump could spend every last dime they had on an election and I still wouldn’t vote for either of them.

    I don’t think corporations have my best interest at heart. But capitalism works best when they make decisions based on their own self interests and everybody benefits. By attempting to sell more product to make a profit for themselves, they have to employ more workers and pay them a competitive wage. The workers use their pay to purchase the items that they feel, based on their own self interests, will provide them the most satisfaction. When everybody chooses based on their own self interests, without government interference, the free market thrives.

  27. kjc
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    “I don’t think corporations have my best interest at heart. But capitalism works best when they make decisions based on their own self interests and everybody benefits. By attempting to sell more product to make a profit for themselves, they have to employ more workers and pay them a competitive wage. The workers use their pay to purchase the items that they feel, based on their own self interests, will provide them the most satisfaction. When everybody chooses based on their own self interests, without government interference, the free market thrives.”

    if i snap my fingers, will you wake up from this dream?

  28. EOS
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Read Adam Smith. It’s called the invisible hand of the market and is the justification for laissez-faire economic philosophy.

  29. alan2102
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    The invisible hand has become quite arthritic and disfigured, of late. And Adam Smith would surely not approve of the crony-capitalistic mess, overrun by fraudsters and thieves, that exists today. To bring up Smith’s name in connection with anything that is now happening is to insult Smith. I have more respect for the man than that.

    EOS, you really need to move beyond callow libertoon-ism. The free market and capitalism are incompatible, even antithetical. Read, study, think, and abandon your slavish apologetics for capitalism. If you want to be a free-marketeer, fine, but be a GOOD one — not deluded by right “libertarian” bullshit. You can do no better than to study Carson’s work on mutualism; links below.

    Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
    Mutualist.Org: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
    The Iron Fist Behind The Invisible Hand
    Corporate Capitalism As State-Guaranteed System of Privilege
    Center for a Stateless Society – Market Anarchism

  30. Meta
    Posted December 13, 2011 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    More than 80 percent of giving to Super PACs so far has come from just 58 donors.

    The hidden infrastructure of the 2012 campaign has already been built.

    A handful of so-called Super PACs, enabled to collect unlimited donations by the continued erosion of campaign finance regulations, are expected to rival the official campaign organizations in importance this election. In many cases, these groups are acting essentially as outside arms of the campaigns.

    These are America’s best-funded political factions, their war chests filled by some of the richest men (and almost all are men) in the country.

    More than 80 percent of giving to Super PACs so far has come from just 58 donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics analysis of the latest data, which covers the first half of 2011. The Republican groups have raised $17.6 million and the Democratic groups $7.6 million. Those numbers will balloon, with American Crossroads, the main Republican Super PAC, aiming to raise $240 million.)

  31. kjc
    Posted December 14, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    “Read Adam Smith. It’s called the invisible hand of the market and is the justification for laissez-faire economic philosophy.”

    I’m aware of Adam Smith. He’s not helping your dream state.

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