WAMC News
12:11 pm
Wed July 25, 2012

Senate Subcommittee Discusses Responses to Citizens United Through Constitutional Amendments

A Congressional hearing was held Tuesday looking at the Supreme Court decision declaring that corporations are people and can spend unlimited amounts of money in elections.  Both of Vermont’s Senators testified before a subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee that discussed the need for a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

The controversial decision by the nation’s high court allowing unlimited corporate spending in elections has sent nearly 2 million signatures to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision. On Tuesday afternoon, the Subcommittee held a hearing titled “Taking Back Our Democracy: Responding to Citizens United and the Rise of Super PACs”.  In his opening remarks, Subcommittee Chair Senator

Senator Dick Durbin
Senator Dick Durbin

questioned whether the U.S. can still claim to be the world’s model for free elections when only about two dozen wealthy people control the terms of the debate in elections.

Both Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the full Judiciary Committee, and Senator Bernie Sanders testified before the subcommittee. 

Senator Patrick Leahy
Senator Patrick Leahy

says while legislative remedies might be quicker, constitutional changes must be considered.
 

Senator Bernie Sanders
Senator Bernie Sanders

says Citizens United puts the future of American Democracy at stake.

Harvard Law School Professor of Law Lawrence Lessig told committee members that in the current presidential election cycle .000063 percent, or 196, citizens have funded 80 percent of Super PAC spending so far.

Vermont activist Dan DeWalt says Congressional hearings are rarely of any consequence.
 
Several Constitutional Amendments have been offered in the Senate.  Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed an amendment that states for-profit corporations are not people,  are not entitled to any rights under the Constitution and are prohibited from making contributions or expenditures into political campaigns.