WASHINGTON, April 6, 2021 – U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) led 50 Members of Congress today in introducing an amendment to the Constitution that would end corporate personhood, reverse Citizens United, put power back into the hands of people, and make it clear that money does not equal speech.
The We the People Amendment specifies that the rights provided by the Constitution are for people — not corporations — and that artificial entities have no Constitutional rights. The amendment also works to get big money out of politics after the most expensive campaign in American history. Additionally, the joint resolution mandates that Federal, state, and local governments require that all political contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
“Corporations are not people and money is not speech,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “After the most expensive election in American history in which special interests poured millions in dark money into campaigns across this country, the We the People Amendment finally returns the power to the people, ends corporate constitutional rights, reverses Citizens United, and ensures that our democracy is really of the people, by the people — not corporations.”
The We the People Amendment is endorsed by local and national groups including Move to Amend. “When corporations are able to claim Constitutional rights, it makes meaningful regulation of their behavior impossible,” said Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, National Director of Move to Amend. “Our government is currently legally beholden to billionaires and their corporations because of this doctrine that was invented by a Supreme Court overreach. We must overrule the Court and make clear that human rights come first. Our ability to address life and death issues like climate change, or the opioid epidemic, or astronomical healthcare costs, depends on passing the We the People Amendment.”
The We the People Amendment ends corporate constitutional rights after the Supreme Court’s flawed ruling in Citizens United. This decision established political spending as protected speech, further prevented limits on campaign spending, and allowed outside groups to accept unlimited political donations. In the election cycle immediately following this 2010 decision, independent spending increased over 600% compared to the previous election cycle. This created an enormous imbalance in power in which the average American’s ability to influence elected officials is dwarfed by large corporations. The ruling also enabled corporate personhood, granting the freedom of expression to corporations.
As political spending by large corporations skyrocketed, the 2020 election easily became the most expensive in American history — more than doubling the total cost of the record-breaking 2016 election cycle. Spending for the presidential, House, and Senate races spiked to over $14 billion. While the presidential election drew nearly $6 billion, congressional races witnessed $8.7 billion in total spending. This resulted in nine of the 10 most expensive Senate races in history and half of the 10 most expensive House races in history occurring in the 2020 cycle. Additionally, the Center for Responsive Politics reported a shift to large donation strategies, with the top 10 donors contributing over $640 million during the cycle, mostly to independent PACs who are unbound by spending caps.
There is extensive support for reining in campaign spending. More than 75% of people say there should be limits on the amount of money individuals and organizations can spend on campaigns. This includes 71% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Additionally, 90% of people say it is important that donors not have more influence than others in our political system.
The We the People Amendment is co-sponsored by Nanette Diaz Barragán, Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Brendan F. Boyle, Cori Bush, Salud O. Carbajal, Matthew Cartwright, Judy Chu, David N. Cicilline, Angie Craig, Danny K. Davis, Peter A. DeFazio, Suzan DelBene, Anna G. Eshoo, Jesús G. “Chuy” García, Raúl M. Grijalva, Brian Higgins, Jared Huffman, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Marcy Kaptur, Ro Khanna, Derek Kilmer, Barbara Lee, Stephen F. Lynch, Betty McCollum, James P. McGovern, Jerry McNerney, Seth Moulton, Jerrold Nadler, Grace F. Napolitano, Joe Neguse, Marie Newman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Ilhan Omar, Ed Perlmutter, Dean Phillips, Chellie Pingree, Mark Pocan, Ayanna Pressley, Jamie Raskin, Linda T. Sánchez, Janice D. Schakowsky, Adam Smith, Jackie Speier, Mark Takano, Mike Thompson, Rashida Tlaib, Paul Tonko, Lori Trahan, and Peter Welch.
The joint resolution is available here.