In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, a debate has raged over whether corporations should be entitled to free speech rights and the ability to make political contributions. This November, voters in Washington state will join Californians in deciding whether to press their state’s congressional delegation to take steps to overturn Citizens United.
What the Initiative Does
This initiative would urge Washington’s congressional delegation to introduce a federal constitutional amendment that would prevent corporations from having the same constitutional rights as people. It would also urge the Washington state legislature to ratify such an amendment if it were to pass Congress.
The proposed constitutional amendment would state that spending money is not a form of free speech under the First Amendment. It would also state that governments are empowered to regulate political contributions and spending to prevent undue influence in elections and ensure the public disclosure of those donations and expenditures.
However, the initiative would not have the force of law. It would merely serve as an expression of the will of Washington state voters.
This initiative will appear in Washington ballots on November 8 as “Initiative 735.”
Corporations aren’t people and the wealthy people who use them to make political contributions have too much of an influence on our electoral system. The best way to reverse Citizens United and make elections more fair is to amend the Constitution to keep corporations from making political contributions.
Any organization or entity should have the right to free speech, including corporations. Ultimately they’re made up of people who have that right and should be permitted to exercise it collectively, even if it means making a political contribution. Campaign spending should be a protected form of free speech.
The Supreme Court ruling that this initiative hopes to eventually overturn, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, effectively prevented the government from restricting political spending by corporations, unions, and nonprofits. Since then, bills have been introduced in Congress to overturn the decision and several state legislatures have passed resolutions expressing opposition to the ruling and calling for the passage of a constitutional amendment to overturn it.
In two others states, Colorado and Montana, voters had an opportunity to call on their congressional delegation to support efforts to overturn Citizens United in 2012. Both the Colorado and Montana ballot measures passed with nearly 75 percent of the vote.
However, a portion of the Montana initiative that required state lawmakers to enact an amendment to the state constitution was struck down by a state court. The court ruled that voters can’t use an initiative to compel legislators to take an action.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit:Jonathan McIntosh / Creative Commons)
Originally published on Tumblr