Move to Amend (MTA) has proposed an amendment that has been introduced in Congress by Representatives Nolan and Poclan. It has some very good things in it. MTA also correctly argues that movement building is the most important thing now. But we feel that MTA has not been careful enough about what their amendment says, that the amendment details are important for movement building, and if we build a movement around some dangerous notions or omissions, it may be problematic to correct things later.
The following are issues that we have with MTA’s amendment language (MTA-a) – a more detailed discussion of these issues is on our page describing why we are no longer an MTA affiliate.
1. MTA-a contains the dangerous sentence “The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the first amendment.”
The amendment has language earlier in section 2 that obligates governments to “level the playing field” regarding election spending. What other power over election spending is this additional phrase intended to allow? It is easy to imagine courts allowing content-based election spending prohibitions if this clause is in the constitution.
2. MTA-a is very clear that non-profits have no constitutional rights, including free speech. Congress would then be free to prohibit organizations such as the ACLU, the Sierra Club, or Move to Amend from affecting political decisions.
In order to allow a more coherent and powerful voice to affect public policy, people form groups to advance certain sorts of efforts. MTA would allow government to prohibit this pooling of money to affect public policy.
Even incorporation by individuals who wish to affect public policy (as in a 501(c)4) has useful benefits. The rules of a 501(c)4 require public disclosure of financial information, so people’s donations have some protection, or at least people can check up on the organization.
3. MTA-a could be passed and nothing would change related to the use of corporate money for lobbying and public relations to affect public policy.
We would like to prohibit for-profit corporations from using shareholder money for any political purpose, including lobbying or public relations (e.g. – pictures of coal plants with butterflies around them, which have no commercial purpose, but are intended to influence public policy). We recognize that there are legitimate times when for-profit companies have expertise that may help with government policy, and there may certainly be times when the effect of a regulation on an industry needs to be made clear, and a corporation is well situated to speak to that. So we think that Congress should have the power to explicitly allow such non-electoral political spending as it deems necessary.
4. MTA-a could be passed and corporations may still be allowed to use shareholder money to affect elections.
The amendment requires Congress, states, and local governments to regulate campaign finance “to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of their money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure”. This may lead to a prohibition on for-profit spending on elections, but we feel it would be better to make this explicit.
See our modifications of proposed amendments to more fully understand the changes we would like – http://www.wethepeopleeugene.org/amendment-wtpe-version/