Rising public interest in issues concerning lobbying and the rights of corporations to finance political campaigns in the U.S. has recently been putting pressure on legislators of all political affiliation to take action. Democratic and Republican legislators alike in California yielded to public demand and approved resolution AJR1 on Monday, which asks congress to call for a constitutional convention that would draft an amendment imposing limits on corporate spending in politics.
The only way the constitution has been amended in the past is through the Congress-initiated process in which two-thirds of the House and Senate pass a proposed amendment, and then three-fourths of state legislatures approve it. However, if two-thirds of all states call for a constitutional convention, Congress is obligated to convene one; this is the course of action being pursued by advocates of the policy.
California is the second state to propose such a convention after Vermont, who, back in early May of this year, made the same proposal. Two states is a good start, but the movement will need at least 34 states to get behind it in order to be successful. Wolf PAC, the political group leading the charge on this issue, is confident that those numbers can be achieved through hard work and consistency.
“And now California, the largest state in the union, is on the board. You think we can’t get the other states? Please keep thinking that- I’m begging you to keep thinking that; because we’re coming for you, okay? We’re not going to stop until we get this done” said Cenk Uygur, founder of Wolf PAC, on his online news show The Young Turks after the decision was announced.
Another goal outlined by the resolution is to overturn the Citizen’s United case of January 2010, in which a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling claimed that the restriction of independent political spending by corporations or labor unions would violate freedom of speech.
“I doubt our founding fathers had the free-speech rights of multinational and foreign corporations in mind when they drafted the First Amendment,” said Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, author of the resolution.
“In every state there are people upset about money in politics,” including some Republicans, Gatto went on to say, suggesting that this is only the beginning of a much larger battle which he and other concerned legislators and political groups intend to win.
It would appear the numbers are on their side as well. When Wolf PAC began in 2011, there was already a rising dissatisfaction amongst the population with the state of the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.
A Gallup Poll released in 2011 stated that “67% of Americans are dissatisfied with the size and influence of major corporations in the country today, the highest level since Gallup first asked this question in 2001.”
At times in the past, Gatto said, when a growing number of states passed resolutions calling for constitutional changes – most recently, the repeal of Prohibition – Congress responded by approving an amendment and submitting it to the states.
This keeps advocates hopeful, thinking back to the amendments of past generations, and the fight for free and fair elections is expected to continue.