Read the text of the proposed
House Joint Resolution 48 introduced February 22, 2019
Section 1. [ Artificial Entities Such as Corporations Do Not Have Constitutional Rights ]
The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.
Artificial entities established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.
The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.
Section 2. [Money is Not Free Speech]
Federal, State, and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate's own contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of their money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.
Federal, State, and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.
The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.
Nothing in this amendment shall be construed to abridge freedom of the press.
The 28th Amendment Explained
Q: What did the Supreme Court decide in Citizens United?
A: In 2008, a conservative advocacy group, Citizens United, challenged the Federal Election Commission (FEC) rules that ban attack ads funded by outside groups shortly before an election. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court overturned key campaign finance rules and long-standing caselaw. It held for the first time that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts of money to support or oppose candidates for elected office.
Q: What has been the effect of the Citizens United decision?
A: We have seen a lot more corporate and superrich money in the electoral process, through SuperPACs and front groups, like Citizens United, that run attack ads against candidates hostile to corporate interests. Outside groups spent nearly $3 billion on attack ads and other campaigning in the 2020 elections. Because of the Citizens United decision, corporations and the superrich have even more influence over our elected officials. Those who stand up against corporations face the prospect of huge funding against them in the next election. Simply by threatening to spend an enormous amount of money, corporate lobbyists have unprecedented leverage over elected officials. As a result, it is becoming much harder to advance a public interest agenda on any issue affecting corporations—whether the issue is health care, climate change, reining in Wall Street, protecting workers’ rights, stopping consumer rip-offs, promoting a just trade policy or many more.
Q: Can’t Congress overturn or fix the decision?
A: Congress cannot overturn Citizens United, or other Supreme Court cases on election spending, because they are (wrongly) based on the Constitutional protections of the First Amendment. The very broad and aggressive decisions do not leave Congress or state legislatures much space to maneuver. The Alaska citizens’ initiative Ballot Measure 2 passed in November 2020 went as far as it could to require disclosure of donors behind the independent expenditure groups seeking to influence Alaska elections, but there is no way to re-institute the limits in Alaska law without overturning these Court decisions. Absent the Court reversing itself, the only way to do that is with a Constitutional Amendment.
Q: What would a Constitutional Amendment do?
A: The Amendment establishes that corporations and the superrich do not have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited sums of money to corrupt our elections. The amendment specifies that Congress and the state legislatures can impose reasonable rules to limit campaign contributions and campaign spending, including establishing special rules that limit corporate spending.
Q: What does it take to pass a Constitutional Amendment?
A: There are a few ways to do it, but the mechanism used for each of the 27 amendments that have passed has been for an amendment to be proposed by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress. It must then also be ratified by three-quarters of the states. In all but one case, state ratification has been through a vote of the states’ legislatures.
An alternate method would be a limited agenda Convention of the States called by two-thirds of the state legislatures. The proposed Amendment would then be ratified by three-quarters of the states.
Q: Is amending the Constitution politically possible?
A: Yes. Amending the Constitution is supposed to be hard, and no one should be under any illusions about its difficulty. But it’s an achievable goal, as the many amendments to the Constitution make clear. The key to success will be a strong foundation of popular support for the amendment. Already, nearly 88 percent of Americans feel that corporations have too much power in our democracy and people have too little. It’s time to get organized and take our democracy back from corporations!
Q: How much success has the movement experienced?
A: We are more than halfway there! Twenty-two states out of the 38 required to ratify the Amendment and over 800 cities and towns have passed resolutions of support. More than 5 million people have expressed their strong opposition to the Citizens United decision by signing petitions circulated by a wide range of groups. In Washington DC, more than 240 Senators and Representatives have endorsed an amendment to overturn Citizens United.
Adapted from Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Questions & Answers, Public Citizen, March 2021.
Read the Eklutna Community Council Resolution
(open or download pdf file)