Sanders proposes amendment to the Constitution that would limit free speech

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Thursday proposed an amendment to the Constitution to exclude corporations from First Amendment rights to spend money on political campaigns.

The bill is a reaction to the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, in which the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the government cannot put limits on election advertisements funded by corporations, unions or other groups. Democrats have charged that the decision essentially treats corporations as people who can enjoy First Amendment rights.

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"Make no mistake, the Citizens United ruling has radically changed the nature of our democracy, further tilting the balance of power toward the rich and the powerful at a time when already the wealthiest people in this country have never had it so good," Sanders said.

"In my view, history will record that the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision is one of the worst decisions ever made by a Supreme Court in the history of our country."

Sanders's amendment, S.J.Res. 33, would state that corporations do not have the same constitutional rights as persons, that corporations are subject to regulation, that corporations may not make campaign contributions and that Congress has the power to regulate campaign finance.

While the Citizens United case affected corporations, unions and other entities, the Sanders amendment focuses only on "for-profit corporations, limited liability companies or other private entities established for business purposes or to promote business interests."

Sanders said he has never proposed an amendment to the Constitution before, but said he sees no other alternative to reversing the Citizens United decision.

"In my view, corporations should not be able to go into their treasuries and spend millions and millions of dollars on a campaign in order to buy elections," he said. "I do not believe that is what American democracy is supposed to be about."

This past summer, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said "corporations are people," when fielding a question about whether taxes should be raised in order to increase federal revenues, which drew sharp reactions from Democrats.

The Sanders amendment is co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), and a similar amendment has been proposed in the House by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.).

These proposals have little chance of moving forward in the House and Senate, as they would need the support of two-thirds of both chambers to pass.