House Democrats Introduce Amendment to Reverse Citizens United

January 20, 2023


A group of House Democrats on Thursday introduced a Constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling Citizens United v FEC.

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court had ruled 5-4 that the government was prohibited under the First Amendment from restricting independent expenditures for political campaigns by corporations, including non-profits, labor unions and other associations.

On Thursday Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Jim McGovern (D-MA) introduced the Democracy For All Amendment, saying its language would “overturn legal precedents that have allowed unrestrained campaign spending and dark money to corrupt American democracy.”

If passed, the Representatives assert, this amendment, would allow Congress and state governments to enact “reasonable, viewpoint-neutral” limitations on campaign funding, including restricting corporations from spending “unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.”

“Citizens United was one of the most egregious enablers of special interest money, but it was only the latest in a long line of Supreme Court cases that opened the floodgates. To truly rein in dark money, we must amend our Constitution,” Schiff said in the Representatives’ statement.

There are four ways to pass a Constitutional amendment:

One, both houses of Congress propose an amendment with a two-thirds vote, and three-fourths of the state legislatures approve. 

Two, both houses propose an amendment with a two-thirds vote, and three-fourths of the states approve the amendment via ratifying conventions. 

Three, two-thirds of the state legislatures call on Congress to hold a constitutional convention, and three-fourths of the state legislatures approve the amendment.

Four, two-thirds of the state legislatures call on Congress to hold a constitutional convention, and three-fourths of the states approve the amendment  via ratifying conventions.

All but one of the 27 Constitutional amendments were ratified the first way. The 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition, was ratified via option two.

The Democrats’ new amendment effort is likely to face pushback from Republicans. At the time of Citizens United’s passing, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), for example, hailed the Court’s ruling, saying, “For too long, some in this country have been deprived of full participation in the political process. With today’s monumental decision, the Supreme Court took an important step in the direction of restoring the First Amendment rights of these groups…”

The 2022 midterm election cycle was the most expensive in history, according to Open Secrets, a nonprofit organization that tracks money in politics. Outside donors spent more than $2 billion on federal midterm candidates.

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