Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) wants to amend the Constitution to restrict the free speech rights of corporations after last week's landmark Supreme Court campaign finance ruling.
At a hearing on Tuesday, Kerry said that in the short term he wanted Congress to quickly pass countermeasures that would require corporations to get shareholder approval for political spending and prohibit spending by domestic subsidiaries of foreign corporations and government contractors.
"But we may also need to think bigger," Kerry said. "I think we need a constitutional amendment to make it clear once and for all that corporations do not have the same free speech rights as individuals."
The first lawmaker to propose amending the Constitution was Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), who told the Huffington Post that she thought the Supreme Court's ruling was so broad that less sweeping measures wouldn't work.
"I think the Supreme Court has actually left us with no choice," she said. "We hoped the court would have had a little more of a mixed ruling that would have left us with some options."
The Supreme Court, by a 5-to-4 majority, held in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that the FEC could not restrict spending by corporations on advertisements for or against candidates during election season because, the court said, corporations have free speech rights as individuals under the Constitution. Before the ruling, corporate political money had to be funneled through political action committees, which have strict fundraising and spending limits.
A constitutional amendment is a huge long shot. It would require two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the states for ratification. Even so, Kerry said the effort is already underway.
"Amending the Constitution is a serious endeavor and some of the sharpest minds in the country are working together right now to construct language for an amendment that would solve the problem and get to the heart of the issue," said Kerry. "I'm ready to work with them and with the activists it will take to get an amendment ratified."