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senate Bill S. Joint Res. 4

Amending the Constitution to Prevent Political Spending by Corporations and PACs

Argument in favor

The Supreme Court got it wrong on Citizens United. The only way to restore the integrity of elections in the U.S. is to amend the Constitution to keep corporations and PACs from spending insane sums of money to influence elections.

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01/21/2016
“But here is the issue, secretary touched on it, can you really reform Wall Street? When they are spending millions and millions of dollars on campaign contributions. And when they are providing speaker fees to individuals.” [abcnews.go.com]
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BarackObama's Opinion
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01/21/2016
“I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities—they should be decided by the American people.” [time.com]
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DonaldTrump's Opinion
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01/21/2016
“I am self-funding my campaign and therefore I will not be controlled by the donors, special interests and lobbyists who have corrupted our politics and politicians for far too long." [usatoday.com]
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Argument opposed

The First Amendment protects all political speech — whether it comes from a person, a political group, or a corporation. Not only that — it’s unlikely that this bill will get the support of two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the state legislatures.

BTSundra's Opinion
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01/21/2016
Protect free speech. I support this idea in small amounts, but a constitutional amendment to prevent this directly contradicts the first amendment.
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Ryan's Opinion
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01/21/2016
We must protect ALL speech. Regardless of whether you agree with it or not.
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SirLauderdale's Opinion
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02/26/2016
Paid speech is still protected by the bill of rights. We shouldn't infringe any rights of the American people.
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joint resolution Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on the Judiciary
    IntroducedJanuary 21st, 2015

What is Senate Bill S. Joint Res. 4?

This resolution would amend the U.S. Constitution to keep non-persons (like corporations or political action committees (PACs)) from legally making political contributions that influence the outcomes of public elections. 

In effect, it would negate the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United v. FEC case. The 2010 decision held that political expenditures by corporations and organizations are protected speech under the First Amendment.

Further, this resolution declares that nothing in this constitutional amendment should be interpreted as restricting the power of Congress and States to enact legislation aimed at:

  • Protecting the integrity and fairness of the electoral process;

  • Limiting the corrupting influence of private wealth in public elections;

  • Guaranteeing the dependence of elected officials on the people alone.

Under this bill, Congress and states would be empowered to:

  • Establish public financing systems for elections;

  • Impose requirements ensuring the disclosure of contributions and expenditures made to influence the outcome of a public election by candidates, individuals, and associations of individuals;

  • Create content neutral limitations on all such contributions and expenditures.

Congress states that nothing in this constitutional amendment should be construed as effecting freedom of the press.

In order for this resolution to become a constitutional amendment, two-thirds of both the House and Senate must approve of the proposal, and three-fourths of the state legislatures (currently 38) must ratify the amendment.

Impact

People in the U.S. — especially those who vote, run for office, or make political expenditures; corporations and political organizations such as PACs; state legislatures, and Congress.

Cost of Senate Bill S. Joint Res. 4

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced this bill on the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC. He believes the decision was a catastrophic development for the electoral process:

“Five years ago today, the Supreme Court issued what I think is one of the most disastrous decisions in its history, Citizens United v. FEC, which led to the rise of super PACS and unlimited, supposedly independent, spending.”

Of Note: According to an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice, spending by outside groups in 2014 Senate races more than doubled from spending levels in the pre-Citizens United 2010 Senate elections to $486 million.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: "Honest Gil Fulbright SOLD Poster" by Frank Ridley - Frank Ridley. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons)

Official Title

A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to restore the rights of the American people that were taken away by the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case and related decisions, to protect the integrity of our elections, and to limit the corrosive influence of money in our democratic process.

    “But here is the issue, secretary touched on it, can you really reform Wall Street? When they are spending millions and millions of dollars on campaign contributions. And when they are providing speaker fees to individuals.” [abcnews.go.com]
    Like (1135)
    Follow
    Share
    Protect free speech. I support this idea in small amounts, but a constitutional amendment to prevent this directly contradicts the first amendment.
    Like (20)
    Follow
    Share
    “I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities—they should be decided by the American people.” [time.com]
    Like (666)
    Follow
    Share
    “I am self-funding my campaign and therefore I will not be controlled by the donors, special interests and lobbyists who have corrupted our politics and politicians for far too long." [usatoday.com]
    Like (326)
    Follow
    Share
    Corporations are not people
    Like (163)
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    Money is not and I stress Is not free speech. Free speech is free speech. I do not have money and the way things stand I don't have free speech. This is the most ill consider and unintelligent rul
    Like (60)
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    This is easily one of the most important fights in our government right now. Locked Congress, career politicians, government shutdowns--- all can be traced to big money.
    Like (59)
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    Objectivity gets eliminated. Public office should not be for sale to the highest bidder.
    Like (29)
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    Long overdue, and a step in the right direction. More change will still be needed to follow this up, but this is good legislation.
    Like (29)
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    Corporations do not represent the people
    Like (27)
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    Once "free speech" impedes on democracy, it no longer becomes free speech. This is not an issue of impeding ones right to free speech. It's an issue of our elected officials not representing their constituents, rather the will of billionaires and large corporations. How effective is my own "free speech" when it's being silenced by the greed of these politicians. End the loophole, get money out of our system.
    Like (20)
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    Elections allow citizens the opportunity to express content or discontent with people running for office, and it is unfair for PACs to have more power in these elections because of their money. All citizens and those running for office should have a fair shot at voicing their beliefs, and money shouldn't be a deciding factor in who gets elected for office. Those insane amounts of money can instead be put to better use in the world, like in the pursuit of ending world hunger. That's where large amounts of money should be allotted, not in elections.
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    Because fundamentally, freedom of speech was meant to apply to individuals, not hierarchical groups. I firmly believe that political spending is hurting the autonomy of the country's voting process. Further, since large companies are not democratic by nature, Citizens United essentially increased the power of "free speech" at the top of the income chain while effectively disqualifying the individual opinions of company employees who do not hold leadership positions and might not feel empowered to speak out against the decisions of their superiors.
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    Government! Stay out of my Constitution.
    Like (9)
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    I believe it's a matter of checks and balances. Each person should have an equal amount of say, not based on who has the most money to spend.
    Like (8)
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    Free speech isn't a reasonable argument here, you're talking about money.
    Like (8)
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    Paid speech is still protected by the bill of rights. We shouldn't infringe any rights of the American people.
    Like (7)
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    Under the Citizens United ruling we're currently living under the George Orwell 'Animal Farm' philosophy where everyone's voice is equal, but some are more equal than others. If money equals free speech then those who don't have the millions to contribute have less of a voice on the elections that will affect them personally.
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    Money should not be allowed in politics. You shouldn't be allowed to buy politicians.
    Like (7)
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    We must protect ALL speech. Regardless of whether you agree with it or not.
    Like (7)
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