The gavel fell on October 21st, 2010 in what is considered the worst US Supreme Court decision since Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857). Though Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee did not deny African Americans the right to U.S. citizenship, it did rule that, since corporations had all the rights of people, any restrictions on how these corporate beings could spend their money on political advertisement were deemed, from then on, unconstitutional. The result was the final dismantling of the US republic, the inauguration of a new corporate plutocracy, and the dismissing the old saying: “you can prostitute all of the politicians some of the time, you can prostitute some of the politicians all of the time, but you cannot prostitute all of the politicians all of the time.” Well now you can. For those of you who are wondering why the US is the only developed country in the world that does not provide a public health care option to its citizens; why the US federal government is incapable of passing even the most basic gun control legislation; why it spends more on defense than the next 15 top countries combined; or why it underwent a recent 16-day government shutdown supposedly over a healthcare bill that was passed by both house of congress and upheld by the Supreme Court, chances are some corporate interest is behind it. Yet as disastrous as Citizens United was, another case currently under review by the Supreme Court could make spending in politics get a whole lot worse.
Recently on October 8th, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the case McCutcheon v. Federal Election Committee. The plaintiff, Shaun McCutcheon, is currently challenging the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Act, a 2002 law that sets biennial, aggregate limits on campaign contributions by individuals. In other words, it limits the total amount of money an individual contributor can give to individual candidates and non-candidate Political Action Committees over a two-year cycle, with the current limit set at $123,000. Even now, however, there scarcely remains any hope that the Supreme Court will swing the other way in favor of maintaining these campaign restrictions. Citizens United and McCutcheon are not isolated events, but intstead the latest in a series of court cases spearheaded by the American far-right to remove government restrictions on campaign finance, beginning with Buckley v. Valeo in 1976, that established money as a form of free speech, and climaxing with Citizens United in 2010. For now, it seems only a matter of time before the floodgates of political spending are further opened and what remain of the American political system drowns under waves of legal bribes. If only there was a way of reversing Citizens United…
Fortunately there is. Hidden in Article V of the US constitution, is an alternative procedure of passing constitutional amendments that bypasses the federal government by way of a constitutional convention called upon by the “application of the legislatures of two thirds of the states.” It is another one of the so-called geniuses of the Founding Fathers, a provision set up should the entire United States government itself become corrupt. Once the convention itself has been called, the amendment can pass into law, should it be ratified by three fourths of the several states called to convention. Though this never-before used amendment process raises many questions as to when and how such a convention should be convened, grassroots movements all over the country have nevertheless been formed to push for a 28th amendment striking down the notion of money as a form of free speech and corporations as legal persons. Among them is Wolf-PAC, founded in 2011 by Cenk Uyghur, host of the progressive political news program, The Young Turks (TYT). The organization is a political action committee with the ultimate goal of removing the corrupting influence of money in politics by passing such an amendment. With grassroots initiatives in states as far apart as New York and Texas, their hope is that through mass mobilization, they can convince their state legislators, who have yet to come under the same degree of corporate influence as their federal counterparts, to call for the constitutional convention and pass the amendment to end the corporate domination of the US government.