It’s Time for a 28th Amendment. The Authors Collection.
November 7, 2013
Take it slow.
That was one of the underlying strategies of the U.S. Constitution. Another one was almost as basic: Don’t trust fads.
In keeping with these themes, the Founding Fathers made it extremely difficult to change the Constitution itself.
Not only must both the House and Senate approve an amendment by two-thirds votes, it must then be ratified by three quarters of the states.
It’s a tall order. And of some 10,000 proposed amendments introduced by members of Congress over the past 220 years, only 27 have overcome those hurdles. That’s a success rate of .3 percent.
The “slow” strategy has worked well in avoiding fads that come and go. The only amendment to be repealed later was the 18th Amendment. That was the one outlawed alcohol and brought the country the Prohibition Era. It was repealed after 14 years. That’s only one mistake out of 27 tries – a darned good record.
But now is the time – 21 years after the 27th Amendment was ratified, to make it 28.
The amendment I propose would empower Congress and local governments to impose monetary controls over elections. They could limit contributions. They could even pass laws imposing overall limits on how much candidates can spend on their election. Other existing Constitutional Amendment would ensure that these limitations would be applied equally to all candidates and contributors.
These campaign limitations also could extend to the current see-no-evil situation where wealthy individuals, corporations and labor unions can give unlimited amounts to political action committees that while superficially independent have the true purpose of helping candidates win elections.
The problem is that much of the Court’s underlying logic that is leading to the gutting of campaign finance reform is accurate, I believe. The idea that that campaign contributions are a form of political speech entitled to First Amendment protection is compelling.
But this logic is leading to a situation where the wealthy have the power to buy elections and contribute at levels that would compromise most candidates’ independence. The U.S. Supreme Court has already started down this road and seems likely to remove many of the remaining roadblocks in the next year or two.
As important as the freedom of speech is, it’s equally important to keep elections fair and not automatically tilted to those who can write the biggest checks. And those who will be most inconvenienced by such a First-Amendment carve out are those who would otherwise write the million-dollar checks for candidates.
Somehow I think that set will figure out some other way to have their voices heard.