As multimillion-dollar Super PAC ads begin airing statewide, Floridians are getting a firsthand look at how the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision has changed presidential elections.
Mitt Romney may try in vain to distance himself from the Super PAC his staff founded to accept millions from anonymous donors and stamp out Newt Gingrich's surge. Gingrich may decry the system while his satellite Super PAC runs a TV special on Mitt Romney's corporate record using $5 million from one casino mogul. Yet as candidates express well-rehearsed disdain over these malicious ads, the fact is they are running to become the national leader of a Republican Party that now openly believes special interests do not have enough clout in Washington.
Most threatening about the Citizens United decision is the court's declaration that caps on corporate spending in elections are unconstitutional, thus undermining the very concept of campaign-finance laws and the contribution limits we already have in place.
Yet, where most Americans see danger in allowing special interests to gain even more power in Washington, the Republican Party sees opportunity. In an amicus brief recently filed in a closely watched court case, the Republican National Committee argues that the Tillman Act of 1907, our century-old law banning direct corporate giving to politicians, is unconstitutional.
It was only a matter of time before the Republican Party openly advocated for a free-for-all system in which corporations and their CEOs can buy our elections. While the supremacy of corporate interests in Washington became a rallying cry in the newly energized Occupy movement, the overwhelming majority of Americans have long agreed there is too much money in politics. With our ability to strengthen campaign finance laws effectively crippled due to Citizens United, amending our Constitution is now our only route to reclaiming our democracy.
I have introduced a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United and banning corporate spending in our elections once and for all. The Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy (OCCUPIED) Amendment makes clear that corporations are not people but private entities prohibited from using their profits to influence voters.
It also gives Congress broad authority to limit and require disclosure of political spending by individuals, unions, nonprofits, wealthy self-funded candidates, and all other sources. Thousands of Americans have already pledged their support for my amendment and its companion legislation introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Amending our Constitution is not easy, but the ability of corporations and the super wealthy to drown out the will of the people is the defining struggle of our time. Most Americans agree that there "can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains," and that we must ensure those "to whom the people delegate their power shall serve the people by whom they are elected, and not the special interests."
Those words, by the way, were spoken by President Theodore Roosevelt, the great Republican president whose legacy will be undone if the Republican National Committee successfully overturns the Tillman Act of 1907 and hands our public elections over to the private sector. Amending the Constitution gives us the best chance to restore the integrity of our elections and deliver our democracy back to the people.
This opinion piece originally appeared in the Miami Herald on January 25, 2012. Visit the original page here.