Since the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, which may cause a great increase in corporate "buying" of elections, there has been a great deal of thinking and organizing regarding a response. There is a bill in Congress that would limit electoral participation by foreign corporations and provide other limits on corporations -- pretty weak stuff, Senator Schumer. There is a bill in Congress to provide public funding of elections. There is even a bill in Congress to amend the Constitution to allow limits on corporate speech in elections. All good. Pass them all.
But we are facing what may be an historic opportunity to do much more. I would say that the "much more" should be done in addition to the above, not instead. Because what I am proposing is a constitutional amendment, and because that process is really difficult and uncertain, we should urge Congress to pass the other fixes right now -- especially public funding of election campaigns. But let's consider also a bigger fix.
Regarding the several other ideas to amend the Constitution: some would do the minimum necessary to enable Congress to limit corporate dominance of our elections. Do we trust Congress to use that tool if we give it to them? And is that "fix" perhaps too esoteric to generate the necessary tidal wave of public support to crash it through the necessary two-thirds supermajorities in the House and Senate and to secure ratification by three-fourths of the states? I doubt it.
We have to think bigger. There is, as I said, a historic opportunity to fix our government, as the anger against the D.C. status quo is boiling over. The only way to seize that opportunity is to devise a reform -- and it need not be simple -- that will unite left and right, progressive and tea partier, and the great and growing middle.
Let me float the amendment below out there for my friends to think about. It probably has some awful unintended consequences attached. But do take a look and let me know what you think. And think about this as you read: the Internet gives us, finally, the opportunity to speak and spread information essentially for free. It gives us the ability to organize and build support for those who represent our views. Many of these communication and organizing functions could only be done by political parties in the past -- parties which have become stale and quite toxic. Their time is perhaps over, and it's time to move on.
I hope if there are some parts that don't work for you, you will consider the other sections separately. And yes, it's a little crazy, but at my age I can get away with starting such conversations.
"Proposed 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution: Section One: Other provisions of this Constitution notwithstanding, in order to provide the Citizens with the right to a fair, honest, honorable and orderly government, the Congress of the United States, together with state legislatures and all other elective public bodies and offices, shall not be organized by or divided by political parties, nor shall political party affiliations be listed upon ballots or in political advertising or promotions. Section Two: Except as provided below, no money shall be raised or spent in the conduct of election campaigns, other than for nominal charges for the passive electronic distribution of information, and further, all participation other than by the candidate shall be voluntary and limited in hours and scope by law. Non-incumbents may raise and spend for advertising an amount equal to no more then one half the annual salary of the position sought. Section Three: Individuals and organizations and their affiliates receiving more than $1 million per year in government contracts or business shall not lobby the same level of government, except as testimony in open hearing. Section Four: Election campaigns shall not begin before six months prior to election."