Money is Not Free Speech
By Tommy Purvis
Following in the footsteps of Move to Amend and firebrand Sen. Bernie Sanders’ efforts to cutoff the never-ending flow of special interest cash in local, state, and nationwide politics, the 28ers—a well-rounded affinity group that found itself as result of the Occupy Riverside movement—has thoughtfully put together a far reaching amendment to the U.S. Constitution to reshape an electoral process that many feel is repeatedly sold to the highest bidder.
“The worst aspects of society have the best lobbyist,” activist Matthew Snyder told the Weekly a few days after the group revealed its version of the 28th Amendment to 75 persons at a town hall meeting called “One Vote, One Voice” at UC Riverside. “This allows industries and other interests to grow large and perpetuate themselves to exert their influence and control over the public by reaching low information voters and confusing them.”
To reach an inclusive solution to deal with the grab bag of important issues found within the core of the 28ers, the group took many of the the same organizational methods—no leader and a consensus-based, simple majority—from Occupy Riverside’s general assembly decorum to the nearby Inland Valley Friends Quaker building. The result is a 600-word document that is the result of four months of weekly Sunday night meetings.
The first article of the group’s 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would create a new Federal Elections Commission (FEC) that would return national elections back to the days of public financing. It would “oversee all federal elections, disperse all election funds to qualified candidates and enforce all ensuing sections of this amendment.” This section would also ban “paid lobbying, paid consultation and paid advocacy from non-profit or for-profit entities toward federally-elected politicians.”
The 28ers believe that these restrictions would level the electoral playing field and grant the general public equal access to federal politicians. In order to deal with the disastrous impacts of Citizens United—a troubling Supreme Court ruling that found the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political donations from corporations and unions—the second section of the document bans contributions to politicians regardless of so called “corporate personhood.”
With the core belief that money is not speech, the 28ers felt compelled to forcefully deal with increasingly powerful political action committees. Federal, state and local governments would be given the power “to regulate, limit or prohibit contributions and expenditures, from either a candidate’s own wealth and expenditures or any organization or natural person.”
Section five of the 28ers amendment, also known as “Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket,” is designed to increase voter turn out. This section establishes an election lottery that will allow a single voter from each of the 50 states to be eligible to win a $100,000 tax-free prize for simply going to the ballot box. Furthermore, the second Tuesday of November for national elections would become a federal holiday to celebrate a revived democracy.
Immigration reform organizer and activist Elizabeth Ayala is credited for sparking the local movement to amend the constitution after a PowerPoint presentation she gave before last year’s general election on special-interest money in Riverside elections.
“The undocumented community is vulnerable to the same issues as the middle class,” Ayala told the Weekly. “Especially when it comes to housing and banking.”
The U.S. Constitution was last amended in the early ’90s to prevent laws affecting Congress salary from taking effect until the next session of Congress. The cumbersome process required a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress before moving on to votes in each state legislature.
For more information on the local movement to amend the Constitution visit 28ers.org.