Sunday, June 7, 2015

Goodwin And Clements: Supreme Court Egregiously Wrong, Time To End Citizens United

When the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling emerged in 2010, once I understood it, the next words out of my mouth suggested a course of action that was impolite, illegal, immoral, probably painful, possibly anatomically impossible and... worst of all... completely ineffective.

So I didn't follow my own advice. From that day to this, I have contemplated a simple question: what is the least draconian action that will accomplish a reversal of Citizens United's utter gutting of campaign finance reform laws in America and in each state?

The Roberts Citizens United Amendment

Today I reached a tipping point when I read an article by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and attorney Jeff Clements (found via the indispensable Bill Moyers) titled "When the Supreme Court is this wrong, it’s time to overrule them". Yes, they are indeed "this wrong," and the only way to overrule them... it appears John Roberts did his homework... is with a constitutional amendment.

I am no fan of new constitutional amendments in general. The only one I've ever (sigh!) actively supported is the Equal Rights Amendment, and it was killed by the goddamn conservatives, so my blessing on an amendment may well be a kind of curse.

There are at least three significant points weighing against a constitutional amendment:

  • First, someone may use one essential amendment (such as this one) as an excuse to call another constitutional convention, which would open the floor to every motherloving nutjob's wet dream of wholly destructive rewrites of large portions of the Constitution. 
  • Second, assuming the debate can be confined to the single required amendment (not easy in America's legislative system), the amendment as ultimately crafted may be ineffectual in remedying the real problem. I've seen some of the proposed campaign finance reform amendments; frankly, I could probably write a better one than most I've seen, and IANAL. Note also what at least one of our major political parties has managed to do already to skirt existing campaign finance laws; they're damned good at it, and I doubt the ratification of an amendment will stop their attempts.
  • Third, the amendment may fail to be ratified, again a very real possibility given that at least one and perhaps both of our major political parties will surely oppose it. If it fails, Citizens United will be affirmed, locked in, as you can only imagine in your worst nightmares. As things stand, there's at least some hope that a future Court will overturn the ruling, though I doubt that, under a government of the 1%, by the 1% and for the 1%.
That said, I see no alternative: America must attempt a campaign finance reform amendment. As Goodwin and Clements point out, it's not the first time in our history that a constitutional amendment has addressed a divisive issue that could be solved by nothing less than such an amendment... remember the 19th, for example?

So... put me on record as supporting a well-crafted campaign finance reform constitutional amendment. I'll get back to you on specifics... (sigh!).

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