Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Phil Wolfson, MD Headshot

The 28th Amendment To The U.S. Constitution: The Omnibus Anti-Corruption Amendment

Posted: Updated:

Return Representative Democracy to the People. Get Money and Privilege Out of Politics.

The Four Notable Truths

A movement of the people has begun. A fundamental political and social realization is spreading. It will come to define our time. We will reclaim democracy ours, our children's, and grandchildren's possibilities for life, love, safety and prosperity, or fall further into decline, depression, and confusion.

It has been clear for decades that there is an ongoing erosion of the ability and power of our citizenry to govern itself. I am an old and proud '60s warrior and have a vista that begins with McCarthyism in the 1950s and remember well its grey and oppressive political and cultural oppression. For a time there was relief and new life and an increase in the quality of the welfare state. However, since the '70s, a reactionary and selfish oligarchy composed of corporate and individual wealth and their paid bureaucratic servants have tightened its grip on our country's governance. The means to this has been increasingly vast sums of money funneled into the electoral process and the accelerating influence of lobbyists on elected officials. The Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court opened the floodgates wide, but the truth is that the electoral and governance processes long have been reducing themselves to the rule of money, influence, and privilege by the few over the many.

Rich personalities dominate our political life, as if the public welfare is irrelevant. Law is made based on special interests introducing their favored agendas having given favors to their designated favored politicians. Or, on the calculations of politicians as to who will give the most money to their extraordinarily expensive election and re-election campaigns. And as our two parties seem more and more alike, the interest in truly different choices is nearly gone. Money rules throughout the political process, almost without exception. The Republic based on the people's interests having sway through an unpolluted representative democracy is gone. Money and government are nearly one. The interests of the earth and our people -- the 99% -- are virtually unrepresented. And the size of the collusion and the mega interests involved is overwhelming and makes change for the good truly difficult to conceive as possible.

Check this out and see if the numbers themselves startle you into a deeper consciousness:

  • From 1999 to 2011, Wall Street spent $4.8 billion on lobbying -- that was what was reported. PACS and individuals in this sector (by report) made over 1 billion dollars in campaign contributions.
  • In 2011 (a non-election year), the total amount spent by 12,633 registered lobbyists in the federal sector was $3.3 billion. Super PACs reported raising 153 million dollars through March 27, 2012 -- first quarter reports are not yet in.
  • The wealth of members of Congress themselves is staggering -- about 50 percent are millionaires, and the top 10 in wealth are worth over $3 billion (conflicts of interest anyone?).
  • In 1974, the total amount spent by all candidates running for Congress was $77 million. In 1982, $343 million. In 2010, $1.8 billion. In 2010, additionally, the total amount contributed to political parties amounted to $2.8 billion.
  • Obama is at over $197 million collected for his campaign as of the end of March. Romney with a late start was a $87 million.
  • By various estimates, political office holders spent 30 to 70 percent of their working hours raising funds for re-election. They are not talking to Mr. and Mrs. Joe Average American. Rather, the conversations are with rich donors, lobbyists, PACs, corporations, and special interests -- not you. With the Citizens United decision, the unregulated stampede of campaign cash from corporate sources promotes an even greater divide between elected officials and the populace.
  • And the awards for becoming a Congressperson or Senator by any measurement are not restricted to terms of office. Far more lucrative are the transitions to careers as 'lobbyists' with as many as 50 percent of Senators and 42 percent of Representatives moving over to the side they regulated (perhaps) and benefited.
  • One calculation is that for every dollar a lobbying firm spends on Congress people for targeted tax benefits, the return on that investment in special goodies is $6 to 20. A great investment indeed!
  • At the federal level these Congressional gifts to their patrons include: earmarks, special allowances, innumerable tax loopholes, regressive taxation, failure to tax corporations appropriately and to collect taxes. It comes out of our hides one way or another. We pay them and they -- Congress and the President -- further indebt us in the interests of bailing out banks and Wall Street who have already pillaged us and continually attack the bits of remaining social welfare -- education, Social Security, Medicare, children's health, Planned Parenthood, contraception, won't tax the rich, etc., etc. Precious few of our elected officials are defending the welfare state, still fewer advocating for its expansion -- and yet the welfare state's depth of support for its people is the benchmark for fairness, social justice, equality, access, care, friendliness, opportunity, prosperity, longevity, healthiness, quality of life.
So that is the diagnosis, The First Notable Truth: We, the polity, suffer due to the inequalities and dominance of the few over the many, who use every means at their disposal to plunder, control and arrange our lives for their benefit--and with less and less concern for the consequences. We live in a time of hyper-materialism -- the devil has his feed, no matter the consequences.

Which leads directly to the consequence, The Second Notable Truth: There will be no significant change without campaign and financial reform of the Congress and for all elected public officials. There will be no real control of the moneyed interests, of Wall Street, no real development of a welfare state, no concerted effort towards abetting the environmental catastrophe at hand until politicians are responsible to the people only, and the people seek to enfranchise themselves once again.

The Third Notable Truth is the means for the cessation of corruption. A Congress corrupted will not reform itself. A politicized Supreme Court with its Justices selected until death or until end-stage disease ends their reigns will interpret the Constitution and preside over election quandaries like Bush/Gore with prejudice that serves their political loyalties. The checks and balances of the Constitution have proven ineffective. The wrecking ball of Citizens United will not stop smashing until the U.S. Constitution is amended to get rid of corporations as people. People are people!

The mechanism to achieve this is a constitutional amendment -- the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution -- that takes all the money out of politics and funds political campaigns only through a tax paid equally by citizens; that eliminates lobbying with money paid to politicians --lobbying must rely solely on the power of persuasion by the merit of cause and argument, not dollars; an amendment that bars politicians from self-seeking benefits such as future corporate and lobby firm employment as rewards for favoritism; that sets term limits for all offices and protects against dynasties and dinosaur obstructionism.

The Fourth Notable Truth is the medicine that once taken sets the course ahead to representative democracy, to a society based on fairness, protection of minority rights, electoral access, kindness, caring, the long term view of benefit for all beings and earth itself. Essential political change occurs when people are emboldened to take chances for truth and fairness, for better lives for themselves, their children and future generations, when the blatant deceptions are blown apart and helplessness and immediate gratification are replaced with great concern, a passion for the truth and its implementation, when the consequences of inaction are painful and interfere with a sense of personal integrity. The language of the amendment may change. There will be compromises as a movement of concerned and brave folks marches forward, but this essence cannot change.

Call for a Constitutional Convention

A corrupt Congress will never reform itself. With the spirit of our country's creation the people of the United States shall move to take back representative democracy:

The Essential Amendment Program:
  • One Person/ One Vote. Corporations are not People!
  • Restore the Power of the Personal Vote
  • Public Campaign Finance
  • No Corporate Financing of Elections.
  • No Lobbying with Money, or the Potential of Future Rewards.
  • No Persons or Group of Persons May Contribute More than100 to Any Politician or Any Single Campaign--100 is the Limit.
  • Finance Electoral Campaigns with a Citizens Tax.
  • Term Limits Limit Oligarchy!
  • 12 Years Max for the Congress, Senate and Supreme Court!
  • Vote Only for Politicians Who Completely Support This Program in Their Platforms: A 'No Vote' for Any Politician Who Does Not Support the 28th Amendment.
  • To Serve in Congress is an Honor, Not a Career. Serve our Citizens, Not the Rich and Corporations!
  • The Congress is Not a Place to Get Elected in Order to Get Rich or Richer: For the text of our proposed amendment, please visit www.profoundemocracy.org.