Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), left, introduced legislation Friday aimed at removing corporate cash from politics by amending the constitution to outlaw corporate money in elections. Cleverly named Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy (OCCUPIED), the law would reverse Citizens United.
Suzy Khimm: I understand this amendment was directly inspired by Occupy Wall Street. Tell me more about how this all came to be.
Ted Deutch: One thing that’s been clear throughout the protests all across the country is that people are tired of a political system that they believe doesn’t respond to their needs, that doesn’t reflect the interests of the American people, and that caters to the corporations that have occupied Washington for far too long. […]
SK: So corporations don’t have any right to participate in elections? Why should they be treated differently than, say, labor unions or nonprofit organizations ? Unions also benefited from Citizens United, but, as I understand it, they wouldn’t be affected by your amendment.
TD: Corporations that are formed for the purpose of earning profits do not have the constitutionally protected rights that natural citizens have. They should not spend their corporate dollars, Treasury dollars to influence outcome of elections.
[As for unions and nonprofits], the amendment gives Congress the authority to create a campaign finance system that ultimately is fair across the board . . . that gives the government back to the people. The amendment specifically reverses Citizens United in making clear that for-profit corporations shouldn’t be spending money on elections. Any other group of people, group of individuals, is going to be in same position as they are now.
SK: If there’s such overwhelming support for these kind of changes though, why not wait for the legal system to come to that conclusion?
TD: [Justice] Stevens vehemently disagreed with the position of the court, legal scholars across America have disagreed . . . but there is every reason to believe the Supreme Court may well continue down this path and move beyond Citizens United and allow corporations to contribute to candidates directly. I don’t believe the American people should wait to see if this is the direction that the Supreme Court goes. We ought to act now. It’s what the framers of the Constitution and people across America understand. [read more]