Frequently Asked Questions
Why do we need a constitutional amendment?
The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Citizens United and other rulings have unleashed a torrent of money into our campaigns. This election will see over 5 billion dollars in spending, mainly paid for by huge corporations and special interests. We should be deciding this election, not big money special interest groups and their negative TV ads. The Supreme Court wrongly decided in Citizens United that corporations have a constitutional right to spend money influencing the outcome of our elections. Although we give corporations certain privileges under law (like limited liability), never before had a Court found a constitutional right for corporations to bankroll electoral campaigns.
Is amending the Constitution really needed?
Due to five pro-corporate Supreme Court judges, we no longer have the authority to limit how much money goes into our elections. Instead of waiting and hoping that the Supreme Court changes its mind or changes its makeup, the best way to reverse the Court’s ruling is to amend the Constitution, just as the people have done 27 times before. An amendment would be a permanent solution to the problem and would allow us to place sensible limits on big money in politics.
How does Amendment 65 help us pass a constitutional amendment?
Amendment 65 instructs Colorado’s members of Congress to support a constitutional amendment to restore government of, by, and for the people. A similar measure will appear on the statewide ballot in Montana, which recently lost a battle in
court to defend its century old ban on corporate spending in elections, and in several cities across the country. By amassing voter instructions and resolutions voicing discontent with Citizens United we send a loud message to our elected representatives who have the power to vote on a constitutional amendment. President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have also voiced support for this idea and Senator John McCain has called the Citizens United ruling “arrogant, uninformed, and naïve.”
Many groups of citizens are working to enact a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United. While this process will take time, and the language of the Amendment itself will be crafted through a deliberative process in Congress, it is imperative that Congress hears from you, the citizens, about these core common sense principles: money is not free speech, and corporations are not people. We can speak in a unified voice at the ballot through voter instructions.
How does the Supreme Court decision in the Montana case affect Amendment 65?
The decision means that states must amend the US Constitution to protect their laws and their sovereignty. Montana tried to fight back against the Citizens United decision with a state’s rights argument and their history of corruption as support, but the Court refused to even hear their case. Simply passing a state law will not work.
This initiative instructs Colorado elected officials to support a federal constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Montana will have a similar ballot question this November, as will many cities and counties throughout the United States.
If Colorado approves Amendment 65, what does it mean?
Amendment 65 charges the elected officials of Colorado to take a stand against the Citizens United decision and get big money out of politics. By passing the initiative, Coloradans tell the rest of the country that we believe in real democracy of, for, and by the people. We will continue to work in Colorado to make sure that our representatives follow the will of the voters by advocating for a constitutional amendment.
Is Amendment 65 legally binding?
Amendment 65 leaves room for each legislator to decide how to comply with it, and for each voter to decide if their representatives have sufficiently done so. Historically, when the status quo was in opposition to the public’s wishes, voter instructions were used to kick-start a constitutional amendment effort. The 17th Amendment (direct election of U.S. Senators) started with this method of communicating to elected officials.
By removing the preference for voluntary spending limits from the state constitution, Amendment 65 prevents our state courts from wrongly using the letter of the law to artificially inflate the power of corporate CEOs and billionaires at the expense of other citizens. The ballot measure is also carefully worded to do more than just “advise” or “ask” legislators: just as someone who fails to carry out directions can be fired from a job, legislators who disregard explicit instructions from the voters can be too.
Does Amendment 65 address corporate personhood?
Amendment 65 is focused on a federal constitutional amendment that allows Congress and the states to adopt meaningful contribution and spending limits in political campaigns. This would allow for limits or bans on corporate political spending, but does not address the broader topic of corporate constitutional rights. Common Cause and many other groups do believe that a constitutional amendment should clarify that corporations are not living people with constitutional rights.
Would the constitutional amendment limit free speech?
Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens correctly noted that “money is property; it is not speech”. Amendment 65 is needed because of the Supreme Court’s flawed logic in the 1976 case Buckley v Valeo that spending unlimited money to influence elections is the same thing as the freedom to speak one’s mind without fear of government sanction or imprisonment. Based on that controversial rationale, citizens who can spend more money are entitled to a greater voice in our elections. Coupled with the Court’s ruling in Citizens United, we are seeing wealthy billionaires and special interests having a disproportionate impact on political campaigns.
A recent report by CoPIRG and Demos found that just over 57% of the $230 million raised by Super PACs from individuals came from just 47 people giving at least $1 million. Amendment 65 calls for a constitutional amendment that would level the playing field, allowing more voices to be heard and enhancing the free speech values of the First Amendment.
How can we pass a constitutional amendment?
Although there are two procedures to pass an amendment, only one has been used in practice. It requires two steps. First, each chamber of Congress must pass the amendment by a two-thirds supermajority. Second, three-quarters of the states (38 states) must then ratify the amendment. Completing both steps amends the Constitution. The other method, which has never lead to enactment of an amendment is for two-thirds of the states to call for a constitutional convention, which would then propose amendments subject to ratification by three-quarters of the states.