Friday, January 20, 2012

Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy (OCCUPIED) Amendment !!

Rep. Ted Deutch: The OCCUPIED Amendment, H. J. Res 90
Senator Bernie Sanders: Saving American Democracy Amendment, S. J. Res 33
“Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office … the financial resources, legal structure, and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process. Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races.”
— Justice John Paul Stevens in his powerful dissent to Citizens United
Corporations are not people and they do not belong in our elections.

 In recent months, Americans across the nation have demonstrated, protested, and occupied cities across the nation. But for far longer, corporations have occupied Washington and our state capitals. We can achieve lasting change by working together to pass the OCCUPIED Amendment. It is time to give our government back to the people.

The Constitutional Amendment introduced by Rep. Ted Deutch and Senator Bernie Sanders will end corporate influence in our elections by:

  • Overturning Citizens United and outright banning the ability of corporations to use their profits to influence our elections.
  • Making clear that corporations, as well as entities formed to represent corporations — are not real, living people with rights protected by our Constitution. They are entities established under our laws and thus subject to our laws.
  • Reasserting the authority of Congress and the States to crack down on anonymous third party groups flooding our elections with malicious attack ads and to limit campaign contributions and expenditures by individuals, candidates, and all types of private entities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why shouldn’t corporations have the ability to influence our elections?

Our Constitution was written by the people, for the people. Corporations are entities formed in accordance with state, local, and federal laws that were all written by the people. These for-profit enterprises are established for business purposes and their rights and obligations only extend to their business purposes.

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision gave corporations the ability to to drown out the will of the people by using the profits in their general treasury funds to influence elections. Now, corporations can use millions of dollars to defeat candidates that may threaten their bottom line. Everyday Americans simply cannot compete with the virtually limitless resources of corporations.

There are already Constitutional amendments out there. Why did you introduce this one?


I applaud the efforts of some of my colleagues in Congress who have introduced measures that aim to overturn Citizens United. However, passing a Constitutional amendment is no easy feat, which is why I believe we need a comprehensive amendment that truly ends corporate control of our elections.

Simply granting Congress the authority to regulate corporate spending in elections does not mean that Congress ever will act. Declaring that corporations are not people will do nothing to stop business associations, formed to promote the business interests of their member corporations,from pouring money into misleading attack ads against candidates that threaten their profits.

Citizens United undermined the very concept of campaign finance law. It declared caps on corporate spending in elections to be unconstitutional and as a result, the caps we already have in place, even for individual contributions to candidates, are also under threat. We also have corporations anonymously using nonprofit groups as fronts for their agendas. The OCCUPIED Amendment restores to Congress the authority to write campaign finance laws that regulate and disclose all contributions and expenditures by all individuals and all types of organizations in our elections.

What is wrong with the Citizens United decision?

The Supreme Court overturned a century of precedent by ruling in Citizens United that corporations have a constitutional right to spend unlimited amounts of cash to influence elections.

Before Citizens United, corporations had to abide by the ruling in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce that limited their participation in elections to political action committees. PACS are funded by voluntary contributions from the employees of a corporation, as opposed to the general treasury fund. The Supreme Court also determined that limitations on corporate spending in elections were permissible in McConnell v. FEC, a decision that upheld portions of the McCain-Feingold reforms that aimed to reign in corporate electioneering.

Because of Citizens United, corporations are now allowed to tap into their profits to spend money advocating for or against candidates of their choosing. Even worse, they can do it anonymously. By undermining the very concept of campaign finance laws, like the ones limiting individual contributions to candidates, the Citizens United decision even threatens a 1907 law passed by Congress prohibiting corporations from directly contributing to candidates. If we don’t take action, before we know it, the Supreme Court could rule that corporations can directly to contribute to candidates for public office.

Is a Constitutional amendment really the best way to address unlimited corporate spending in elections?

Even if Congress had the political will to stand up to special interests and pass limitations on corporate spending in elections, such an effort would be unconstitutional as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. The majority opinion ruled that corporations have the same First Amendment rights as the American people and can spend unlimited amounts of their general treasury funds in elections. It is too late for Congress to place limits on corporate campaigning. The Framers of our Constitution gave us the power to amend the Constitution and it is imperative that we use it now.

Is your amendment just a giveaway to unions?

No. Labor unions are legally recognized as representatives of workers, who are natural persons with constitutional rights that deserve protections. While the OCCUPIED Amendment does not prevent unions from using the dues and donations of their workers, it will subject their political activities to laws limiting spending and expenditures, just as it does other private entities and all individuals.

How will people and various types of entities be impacted by the OCCUPIED Amendment?

Natural Persons: The OCCUPIED Amendment makes clear that the rights enshrined in our Constitution are those of natural persons. However, the OCCUPIED Amendment reaffirms the ability of Congress and the States to enact campaign finance laws that limit the amount of money individuals can spend to influence elections and requires political action committees to disclose their donations and operate with transparency.

Corporations: Corporations are not people with constitutional rights. They are for-profit entities established for business purposes. The OCCUPIED amendment bans for-profit entities and limited liability companies from spending money in elections, whether it be through direct expenditures or to third party groups that aim to influence elections.

501(c)(6)'s: 501(c)6’s are associations formed to promote the business interests of their membership corporations, which are not people. Therefore, these entities are also banned from spending money in elections, and they must make public any contributions to third party groups.

Unions: Labor unions are legally recognized as representatives of workers, who are natural persons with constitutional rights that deserve protection. While the OCCUPIED Amendment does not prevent unions from using dues and donations from the workers they represent on electoral advocacy, this amendment will subject them to laws limiting spending and expenditures, just as it does other private entities and individuals.

501(c)3 and 501(c)4 Groups: Nonprofit entities, like 501(c)(3) charities, churches, and hospitals, are not impacted by the OCCUPIED Amendment. 501(c)(4) organizations, which are nonprofits established to promote social welfare, are permitted to particpate in elections so long as it is not the organization’s primary purpose. While the American Red Cross, the Sierra Club, and most nonprofit organizations are entirely legitimate, many are props set up by corporations and their CEOs for the purpose of influencing elections. That is why the amendment enables Congress to regulate, limit, and require disclosure of these organizations' electoral expenditures. The OCCUPIED Amendment gives us the means to effectively police corporations and a few billionaires from using nonprofits as fronts for their political agendas.

How does your amendment address the problem of corporations and very wealthy Americans from anonymously funding front groups to defeat candidates?

My amendment bans corporations from using their profits in any election or ballot initiative before the people. By requiring that Congress include disclosure as part of our campaign finance laws, corporations that attempt to funnel money into front groups to influence elections will therefore face prosecution for violating the 28th amendment of the Constitution. The amendment also reestablishes the authority undermined by Citizens United for the States and for Congress to set limits and require disclosure of all individual contributions.

Who owns

Ethics rules prohibit Members of Congress from using their official congressional office, which is funded by taxpayer dollars, to collect petitions, advertise, and organize online on behalf of legislation. For the time being, having Rep. Deutch’s campaign committee host is the best option for his efforts to raise awareness about corporate influence in our elections and mobilize support for H. J. Res 90.

About the OCCUPIED Amendment

The Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy (OCCUPIED) Amendment is a constitutional amendment introduced by Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida’s 19th district. See a section-by-section explanation of the OCCUPIED Amendment below.

What You Can Do

1. Please sign this petition to demonstrate the powerful grassroots support behind the Occupy Amendment.

2. Please send your friends and family information about the OCCUPIED Amendment so they can show their support.

3. Please call your elected representatives in Congress and ask them to cosponsor H. J. Res 90, the OCCUPIED Amendment.

Section I. – Corporations are not people.

The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons and do not extend to for-profit corporations, limited liability companies, or other private entities established for business purposes or to promote business interests under the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state.

Explanation: Section I of the OCCUPIED Amendment makes clear that corporations, and entities established to promote the business interests of their member corporations, are not people with inalienable rights enshrined in our Constitution. This section overturns the incorrect assertion in the Supreme Court decision Citizens United that corporations have free speech rights protected by the Constitution and are therefore able to spend unlimited corporate profits in our elections. Section I also denies corporations and other entities established for business purposes the right to claim that worker protections, environmental regulations, and other laws written by the people violate their court-awarded constitutional rights.

Section II. – Corporations can be regulated by people.

Such corporate and other private entities established under law are subject to regulation by the people through the legislative process so long as such regulations are consistent with the powers of Congress and the States and do not limit the freedom of the press.

Explanation: Section II simply states that corporations are established in accordance with the laws of the people and they are therefore subject to laws written by the people. Corporations cannot claim they have constitutional protections from laws written by the people to limit pollution, ensure the fair treatment of workers, and safeguard the public.

Section III. – Corporate prohibition in elections.

Such corporate and other private entities shall be prohibited from making contributions or expenditures in any election of any candidate for public office or upon any ballot measure submitted to a vote of the people.

Explanation: Section III prohibits business corporations and business associations from using their profits to participate in our elections, whether it is through direct expenditures from their general treasuries or through funding third party groups that air attack ads, influence voters, or electioneer communications. This section slams shut the door opened by Citizens United that enabled our elections to be flooded by corporate campaign spending.

Section IV. – Regulation of all electioneering, contributions, and expenditures by individuals and other entities.

Congress and the States shall have the power to regulate and set limits on all election contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own spending, and to authorize the establishment of political committees to receive, spend, and publicly disclose the sources of those contributions and expenditures.

Explanation: Section IV strikes back against the argument made in Citizens United that caps on electoral spending and expenditures are unconstitutional. By reaffirming the right of Congress and the States to establish campaign finance laws that require public disclosure, corporations will no longer be able to anonymously funnel cash to third party groups for the purpose of funding malicious attack ads, smear campaigns, and companion Super PACS. Section IV also allows Congress to set limits and require disclosure for any and all political contributions and expenditures by individuals and other private entities. This section allows Congress to end the practice of a few billionaires spending unlimited funds to promote their personal political agendas.

Visit the FAQ section for more detailed information.

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