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Boswell pushes constitutional amendment to overturn SCOTUS ruling
Third District U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Des Moines, has introduced legislation amending the U.S. Constitution to restrict corporations and labor unions from using operating and general treasury funds to “bankroll federal campaign advertisements.”
The push comes in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 ruling Thursday that overturned a 1990 decision that allowed the government to bar corporations and unions from spending general treasury funds on ads expressly urging a candidate’s election or defeat. It also overruled part of a 2003 decision that upheld The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as McCain-Feingold.
Jane Slusark, Boswell’s press secretary, told The Iowa Independent the Congressman’s resolution has been formally introduced and is being circulated for co-sponsors.
“I have introduced this important legislation because the Supreme Court’s ruling strikes at the very core of democracy in the United States by inflating the speech rights of large, faceless corporations to the same level of hard-working, every day Americans,” Boswell said in a statement. “The court’s elevation of corporate speech inevitably overpowers the speech and interests of human citizens who do not have the coffers to speak as loudly.”
Boswell said House Joint Resolution 68 would disallow a corporation or labor organization from using any operating funds or any other funds from its general treasury to pay for an advertisement in connection with a federal election campaign, regardless of whether or not the advertisement expressly advocates the election or defeat of a specified candidate.
“Corporations already have an active role in American political discourse through million-dollar political action committees and personal donations to campaigns,” Boswell said. “The legislation I introduced will prevent the Wall Street corporations that received billions in taxpayer bailout dollars from turning around and pouring that same money into candidates that will prevent financial regulation on their industry. No American should have to turn on the TV and see AIG telling them how to vote.”
A coalition of public interest organizations also called for a constitutional amendment. Those groups, which include Voter Action, Public Citizen, the Center for Corporate Policy, and the American Independent Business Alliance, say the court’s ruling poses a serious and direct threat to democracy.
“Free speech rights are for people, not corporations,” said John Bonifaz, Voter Action’s legal director. “In wrongly assigning First Amendment protections to corporations, the Supreme Court has now unleashed a torrent of corporate money in our political process unmatched by any campaign expenditure totals in US history. This campaign to amend the Constitution will seek to restore the First Amendment to its original purpose.”
For his amendment to become reality it would have to pass by a two-thirds vote in the U.S. House and Senate, then be ratified by 38 state legislatures or state conventions within the next seven years.