What is the difference between Initiative 735 and Initiative 1464?
Both deal with campaign finance but in very different ways.
Initiative 1464 changes the tax code to give citizens vouchers to spend on politicians they choose by eliminating the ability of out-of-state shoppers to shop tax-free. Initiative 735 does not change the tax code. It will not cost you money.
Initiative 735 is about giving the power to the people to change election spending how they see fit. It's working on a federal level to create the ability for change - we leave it up to the people to decide what the change will look like. Initiative 1464 is only on the state level and involves more tangible changes in voting and government spending.
Initiative 735 is funded by small donations and run by an in-state volunteer group. We have spent $700,000. Initiative 1464 has large out-of-state donors and has spent $3,500,000.
What is Citizens United?
Citizens United is shorthand for the 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens United v FEC. In a 5-4 ruling, the justices declared unconstitutional the government restriction on “independent” political spending by corporations and unions. The decision overturned century-old precedent, including the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act, allowing the government to regulate such spending. As a result, there are unprecedented amounts of money flowing into elections.
What are Super PACs?
Super political action committees are fundraising and advertising groups that did not exist before Citizens United. Super PACs may not contribute directly to candidate campaigns or parties but instead spend money independent of a political campaign to influence the result. They can raise funds from corporations, unions and other groups. And because of "dark money" loopholes, donors to Super PACs are often secret. Super PACs now fund 73% of all political ads from outside groups.
How has Citizens United affected laws in various states?
States no longer have the right to make their own campaign finance laws. After Citizens United, state limitations on corporate contributions were either repealed or struck down by the courts in 14 states: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. State limitations on union contributions were struck down or repealed in seven states: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin.
What states have passed resolutions in favor of a new amendment?
California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia have passed resolutions through their legislatures. Colorado and Montana have had successful referendums.
A New Constitutional Amendment
What will it take to overturn Citizen United and related Supreme Court decisions?
There are only three ways a Supreme Court ruling can be overturned. First, the Supreme Court could do so itself via a new case. Or Congress, pushed by the people, can pass a Constitutional amendment with a 2/3 majority in each house and then ratification from by 3/4 of the states' legislatures. The last way involved a Constitutional Convention called for by 38 states' legislatures that would then be voted on by randomly selected constituents serving.
What would the constitutional amendment do?
While the details will be worked out by Congress, 17 states have said they want an amendment that empowers federal, state and local governments to regulate and require disclosure of political contributions and expenditures to ensure that no person or artificial legal entity gains undue influence over government and the political process.
Is a constitutional amendment the appropriate response?
Yes. We have amended the Constitution 27 times. Seven of those amendments overturned Supreme Court decisions. An amendment is necessary so that decisions like Citizens United don't happen again, as equality in elections will not be as open for interpretation.
Will the proposed amendment limit free speech?
The amendment would not limit the content of speech in any way. It would limit the amount of money that can be spent by individuals, corporations and other entities to dominate political discourse that drowns out the speech of most citizens and corrupts the political process. It would allow more people to have access to political speech, rather than just the very wealthy.
Does the proposed amendment limit freedom of the press?
The First Amendment treats freedom of speech and freedom of the press separately. The amendment would not limit freedom of the press in any way. The press was free before Citizens United, and will be free after Citizens United is overturned.
Will the proposed amendment prevent people from joining together into political parties, citizens’ organizations, associations or other groups?
The proposed amendment would not change constitutionally protected freedom of association. People will continue to be free to associate with others to engage in political activity. However, the amount of money that such organizations contribute to political campaigns could be regulated.
Why does Initiative 735 include all corporate rights?
Corporations are not mentioned in the Constitution; consequently, they have no rights in the Constitution. However, over the years and through numerous court cases, corporations have successfully claimed constitutional rights when the rights and responsibilities they actually have are those mandated by statute in the charters they are granted by the states, not by the Constitution. These rights they claim have formed the foundation for corporations' ability to pour unlimited money into influencing elections. Initiative 735 does not seek to hinder corporations’ abilities to operate and do business in accordance with their established charters - we just want to limit their influence in elections.
Does Initiative 735 also address unions?
Yes. All artificial entities are affected - corporations, unions, nonprofits, universities, etc. Corporate personhood is expressly named because it is the legal bedrock that all organizations use when trying to influence elections. Eliminating corporate personhood is a step towards eliminating undue influence from all sources.
What constitutional rights have corporations successfully claimed?
- 1st Amendment Free Speech rights. Corporations use these rights, meant to protect human beings from the power of the state, to influence elections through political “contributions” (more like “investments”); to advertise for guns, tobacco and other dangerous products over the objections of communities; to avoid having to label genetically modified foods.
- 4th Amendment Search and Seizure rights. Corporations have used these rights to avoid subpoenas for unlawful trade and price fixing and to prevent citizens, communities and regulatory agencies from stopping corporate pollution and other assaults on people or the commons (e.g., prohibiting regulators from making surprise inspections).
- 5th Amendment Takings, Double Jeopardy and Due Process rights. Corporations use these rights to be compensated for property value lost (e.g., future profits) when regulations are established to protect homeowners or communities; to ensure they cannot be retried after a judgment of acquittal in court; to ensure that the granting of property to a corporation by a public official cannot be unilaterally revoked by a subsequent public official or Act of Congress.
- 7th Amendment Right to Trial by Jury. This amendment codifies the right to a jury trial in certain civil cases, and inhibits courts from overturning a jury's findings of fact. In Ross v. Bernhard, corporations get 7th Amendment right to jury trial in a civil case. The Court implies that the corporation has this right because a shareholder in a derivative suit would have that right.
- 14th Amendment Due Process and Equal Protection corporate rights. Corporations have used these rights to build chain stores and erect cell towers against the will of communities; oppose tax and other public policies favoring local businesses over multinational corporations; resist democratic efforts to prevent corporate mergers and revoke corporate charters through citizen initiatives. 14th Amendment rights, originally enacted to free slaves from oppression, were seen by corporations as a grand opportunity to also get equal protection. Between 1890 and 1910, more than 300 Supreme Court cases were heard under the 14th Amendment: 288 by corporations and only 19 by African Americans.
- Commerce Clause-related rights. Corporations have used this section of the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8), for example, to ship toxic waste from one state to another over the “health, safety and welfare” objections of communities by claiming the waste isn’t actually “waste” but “commerce.”
- Contracts Clause-related rights. The Supreme Court ruled in Dartmouth vs. Woodward (1819) that a corporation is as a party in a private contract based on the Contracts Clause (Art 1, Sec 10) rather than being a creature of public law. Even though the state creates a corporation when it issues a charter, that state is not sovereign over the charter, merely a party to the contract. Thus, corporations became “private contracts” with the state and, therefore, shielded from many forms of control by We the People.