By Mike Lillis - 09/20/11 08:54 PM EDT
A pair of House Democrats introduced legislation Tuesday to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling that freed corporations to spend unlimited money on elections.
Sponsored by Reps. John Conyers (Mich.), senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and Donna Edwards (D-Md.), the proposal would amend the Constitution to empower Congress and the states to limit corporate spending on political activities.
“Last year, the Supreme Court overturned decades of law and declared open season on our democracy,” Conyers said in a news release. “It is individual voters who should determine the future of this nation, not corporate money.”
The ruling effectively undid certain provisions of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law, which was designed to prevent a deluge of corporate money in elections.
The 5-4 Supreme Court decision split the ideological wings of the court, with centrist Justice Anthony Kennedy casting the deciding vote.
The majority argued there is nothing in the First Amendment to indicate that corporations shouldn’t be afforded the same constitutional protections as individuals.
“Its text offers no foothold for excluding any category of speaker,” wrote conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.
Writing in dissent, now-retired Justice John Paul Stevens, representing the court’s liberal wing, argued that corporations and individuals often have very different interests. The decision, he warned, “threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation.”
Edwards on Tuesday argued that a spike in corporate spending on campaigns since the decision has proven Stevens correct.
“Since that flawed ruling was issued, campaign spending by outside groups including corporations surged more than four-fold to reach nearly $300 million in the 2010 election cycle,” Edwards said in a news release.
Reversing the Citizens United ruling, Edwards said, “is the only way to once and for all put the American people, and not corporations, in charge of our treasured democracy.”