Jim McGovern vs. Citizens United

Massachusetts congressman Jim McGovern got an unprecedented number of eyeballs (for floor speech in the House) on Reddit when he proposed not one but two constitutional amendments directed at the Citizens United decision.1 These decision effectively removed most barriers to corporations spending unlimited amounts of money on campaigns, outside of what they donate directly to political campaigns. The rationale was that corporations enjoy the same First Amendment rights as you or I, that “corporations are people, too.”

  • HJ Res 20 would empower the Congress and state governments to regulate campaign finance, forestalling judicial challenges.
  • HJ Res 21 would explicitly overturn the Citizens United decision, and clarify the concept of individual rights vs. corporate rights.

“These amendments are sorely needed. The idea that “corporations are people, too” flies in the face of everything our democracy stands for. A person is a singular living organism, which is born, breathes, eats, procreates, and then dies. A corporation is a legal entity created to provide a legal framework for a business. It may be one person, or it may be tens of thousands of employees and an untold number of shareholders. According to the original American theory of democratically elected representative government, every one of those persons, from the CEO to the guy who empties the wastebaskets and the retiree with the company’s stock in his IRA, has an equal say in how the country is run. According to the Citizens United decision, by virtue of its bottomless cash reserves, the corporation can spend that cash to potentially thwart the political will of its own small shareholders and employees. We have gone from “One person, one vote,” to “One dollar, one vote.”

Our constitution begins with the words “We the People,” not “We the People (and other legal entities).”

For setting in motion a ball that absolutely has to be in play, we confer upon Representative McGovern the esteemed title of Hoopy Frood.

  1. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (558 U.S. 310), 2010 []

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