Reason Roundup

Senate Democrats Back Constitutional Amendment to Undo Citizens United

Plus: Marijuana banking, suing Facebook, and more...


Democrats are trying to amend the constitution to undo a Supreme Court decision. The ruling they take issue with is 2010's Citizens United v. FEC, which lets corporations engage in political speech without facing extreme regulation.

Last week, the entire Senate Democratic Caucus introduced a constitutional amendment to undo Citizens United. In 2014 "we reported this amendment to the floor," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D–Ill.) during a July 30 press conference. "What happened to it? A McConnell filibuster happened to it….With a new leader by the name of Schumer in the Senate, we can be sure that it won't be a filibuster stopping us."

Yesterday, one of those senators put the spotlight on the crusade. "Citizens United has damaged our democracy and allowed corporate money to flood our politics," claimed the California senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris on Twitter. (Harris herself has received lots of corporate cash, though she's recently been going back and forth on whether she'll keep taking it.) "We can't allow this to continue—which is why my colleagues and I introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn this terrible Supreme Court decision," she added.

Harris and company are continuing Hillary Clinton's crusade. Back in 2016, Clinton suggested "that the real problem with that decision is that it did not permit the legal barring of a documentary critical of her," as Reason's Brian Doherty wrote. Clinton complained the critical film should have been banned around election time (under a 2002 law disallowing corporations and labor unions from making "electioneering communication" in the days or months leading up to an election) "because the legal entity behind it was organized as a corporation."

That gets to a crucial point about "corporations": They're not all massive behemoths or big money spenders. Small and sometimes single-person businesses, nonprofit groups, activist organizations, trade associations, labor unions, and all sorts of entities that liberals like are organized as corporations, and as such benefit from the right to be public about political matters without powerful elites shutting them down.

Democrats pretend that ending Citizens United is about restoring transparency and fairness to political speech. But what sort of transparency and fairness prohibits vast swaths of its organized advocacy and community groups from talking about candidates and campaign issues at the very time when they're most important? Behind the rhetoric about "dark money" and "corporate influence," what this "reform" would do is to strip speech rights from all sorts of citizens—and let politicians hoard power over political narratives themselves. (See also: "Our Presidential Cycle Shows Why Citizens United Was Decided Rightly" and "The Citizens United Backlash Threatens Basic Rights.")



Marijuana-business banking bill hits a snag. Sen. Mike Crapo (R–Idaho), who heads up the Senate's banking committee, says he's down with overhauling certain rules so that marijuana businesses can bank. But Crapo rejects the existing bill being supported by a bipartisan, bi-chamber congressional crew. The Secure and Fair Enforcement Act is "being cosponsored by nearly a third of the body," reports Marijuana Moment. However, "Crapo floated the idea that his chamber might instead pursue separate legislation or even seek an administrative fix for the issue rather than pass a bill."


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