Constitutional Amendment

Posted by & filed under Assemblies, Past Proposals.

PROPOSAL: There is a rapidly growing consensus among millions of Americans, both inside and outside of
the OWS movement, that true representative democracy cannot be achieved in our nation as long as the
minority of individuals and private entities with the greatest wealth exert a controlling influence over the
selection of candidates for public office; and that this has become the overwhelming and unacceptable state
of our election process today. Therefore, I believe that addressing this root problem should be OWS’
number one priority.
In my view, the most “bullet-proof” remedy would be a constitutional amendment that: 1) mandates the
exclusive use of public funds for national election campaigns, financed by federal income tax revenues; 2)
establishes a permanent and autonomous federal election authority to devise and administer a system for
the equal apportionment of campaign funds among qualifying candidates; and, 3) charges Congress with
the responsibility to impose restrictions on the content, quantity and/or duration of campaign advertising.
Measures currently being pursued to redefine “corporate personhood” would still be susceptible to
various tactics of legislative manipulation, court interpretation, and corporate circumvention. Unless we
overturn completely the Supreme Court’s definition of private money as protected political speech, by
funding elections with the fair and non-partisan distribution of public dollars through an independent
regulatory agency, meaningful policy reform in any arena of government will remain impossible. Therefore, I
urge the Assembly to consider developing such a proposed amendment itself, presenting it to the public,
and planning national action to support it.
I envision three steps to phasing in this strategy:
1) That OWS invite a “blue ribbon panel” of non-partisan experts on constitutional law to draft the
amendment (including, for example, retired Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the blistering
dissent to Citizens United).
2) That OWS, after voting to endorse the amendment, release it to the public along with a plainlanguage argument for its purpose and passage. The hope would be that – either as written, or in
some modified form acceptable to the panel and OWS – members of, or candidates for, the U.S.
Senate and House of Representatives would commit to sponsor and introduce the amendment.
3) If this occurs, that OWS roll out a coordinated, nationwide action to “Occupy the Constitution” in
support of the amendment (not of any particular candidate or candidates): specifically, that the
Assembly draft a general citizens’ petition declaring that the signers will vote only for a candidate
for federal office who is willing to pledge, formally and publicly, his/her support for the amendment;
and that this petition be circulated, and the signatures tabulated and verified, by local Occupy
groups, with the results presented to the public by OWS collectively.ARGUMENT: Just as OWS is a revolutionary movement, not a political party – and does not endorse
political candidates or parties – the U.S. Constitution does not recognize or endorse political parties. And
neither does this proposal. It is utterly non-political and non-partisan, and seeks to remove the influence of
private money from the election process as a whole. Its premise is simple: the system is broken, but the
Constitution is not – and that the Constitution contains an appropriate and effective remedy for precisely the
problem we are confronted by today.
Furthermore, this proposal is easy to understand, and asks nothing of the “99%-ers” on the sidelines
other than to recognize and embrace one basic truth, which serves every American equally: that our
government still belongs to us, the people, under the Constitution; and that it can be reclaimed at any time,
peacefully and lawfully, by reasserting our right to insist that our public servants work only for us, and not for
remuneration in any form from any source other than the tax dollars of the citizens who employ them.
Because of OWS’ transformative nature; its hard-won foothold in the public consciousness; and the
nationwide network of alternative communication and coordination it has forged, I believe that it is uniquely
positioned to use the force of direct democracy to regain control of the representative process that has
served this country well for nearly two centuries, but has now been corrupted and stolen by the wealthiest
and most powerful few among us.
It is time to “Occupy the Constitution” – where “we the people” were born, and still hold the ultimate
authority – and commit ourselves the causes of individual conscience and fundamental, lasting change in
the conduct of our government.
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7 Responses to “Constitutional Amendment”

  1. Natalio Perez

    If I were present at the GA in which this is being proposed, I would vote against for a number of reasons:

    1) I disagree with the notion that the “government still belongs to us, the people, under the Constitution; and that it can be reclaimed at any time.” The United States’ Constitution was established to protect the wealthy elite of White, landholding males, and has continued to serve a similar purpose ever since. We can’t reclaim something that was never ours.

    2) It would never go anywhere. The U.S. government is fundamentally tied into the interests of the wealthy, who rely on the influence of money in politics to continue their dominance. The House wouldn’t pass it because its members are integrated into this system, and the Senate wouldn’t pass it for the same reasons, so it wouldn’t even make it to a general vote.

    3) It funnels people’s energy back into a system that will never work for us. Rather than developing a politics independent of the existing order, it tries to funnel people back into the state of affairs and reform an unreformable system. In my opinion, this is a slippery slope to Occupy becoming Reelect Obama 2012, whether it is designed that way or not. Occupy’s power, and what excites people, is precisely that it breaks with the dreary, uninspired political system of this country. Pulling people back into it would be a disaster.

    4) It doesn’t actually solve any real problems. Even if this somehow were to be passed (which it wouldn’t be), the rich would simply find new, creative ways to keep us voting for their representatives.

  2. Gretchen Harwood

    I am not sure what the writer proposes, but I think it is reasonable to recognize that the Constitution is flawed in that it does not secure property rights for individuals. This appears to be intentional. It is perfectly acceptable to reinforce that this is>unacceptable< to OWS.
    Each individual has a right not only to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but also the right to own property. This is very important if we ever really want to secure our rights.
    If this isn't in the Constitution, our rights are most certainly NOT secured.

  3. Russ Firestone

    @Natalio P. Your comments in quotes; my replies below.

    1. “I disagree with the notion that the ‘government still belongs to us, the people, under the Constitution; and that it can be reclaimed at any time.’ The United States’ Constitution was established to protect the wealthy elite of White, landholding males, and has continued to serve a similar purpose ever since. We can’t reclaim something that was never ours.”
    That is an ideological opinion. There is nothing in the Constitution that supports it, explicitly or implicitly. What has happened is that a series of unconscionable SCOTUS decisions over the past few decades has enabled artificial entities to protect their wealth by participating directly in the election campaign process, and that is what this proposed amendment is intended to overturn.

    2. “It would never go anywhere. The U.S. government is fundamentally tied into the interests of the wealthy, who rely on the influence of money in politics to continue their dominance. The House wouldn’t pass it because its members are integrated into this system, and the Senate wouldn’t pass it for the same reasons…”
    The proposal acknowledges that it would take enormous public pressure to get such an amendment ratified. This is why it includes a multi-step plan of action to build public pressure behind the measure, and bring that pressure to bear on Congress through a nationwide voter petition/boycott drive.

    3. “It funnels people’s energy back into a system that will never work for us… Occupy’s power, and what excites people, is precisely that it breaks with the dreary, uninspired political system of this country. Pulling people back into it would be a disaster.”
    There is nothing in the proposal that prevents Occupy – on a local, regional, or national basis – from addressing other issues via other strategies and activities. That said: I strongly believe that the movement needs to adopt one TOP priority, around which it can organize and mobilize nationally, which will inspire a much larger share of the 99% to get involved. I see this amendment as that potential rallying point.

    4. “It doesn’t actually solve any real problems. Even if this somehow were to be passed (which it wouldn’t be), the rich would simply find new, creative ways to keep us voting for their representatives.”
    I can think of no other problem more “real” or fundamental than the controlling influence of private wealth on the selection of candidates for public office in this country. The amendment outlined in this proposal is designed as it is, and goes as far as it does, precisely to reduce or eliminate the possibility of such “creative” end-runs by wealthy individuals and entities. It is not an argument simply to say that they would “find new ways”; please provide some specific examples of how you think they would do it.

  4. Mosheh Eesho Muhammad Al- faraj Thezion

    Hummm….

    a constitutional amendment that:

    1) mandates the exclusive use of public funds for national election campaigns, financed by federal income tax revenues;

    2) establishes a permanent and autonomous federal election authority to devise and administer a system for
    the equal apportionment of campaign funds among qualifying candidates;

    THIS… CAN WORK….

    But… only if… it was based on….

    Equal airtime… speaking time… on Cspan.. for example… or on public access channels.
    Equal time… equal access…. equal ability to speak and convey their message.

    This… would offset any amount of money spent…

    But.. would require that all candidates be able to speak their minds clearly… which is needed anyway.
    As.. this is the best way, to allow the non-money candidate to compete with the big money candidate.

    However… there is NO WAY… reasonably to keep other groups from spending money to support a candidate.
    What matters… is that… with equal air time.. free air time.. on a free public access channel for example.. the people can chose their candidate based ON A REAL COMPARISON… instead of just how much money is spent.

    This… proposal if shortened could fly… but would be a hard sell.
    Besides.. our nation basically abandoned the Amendment process in 1933.

    see—> http://mosheh.org/The-Constitution.html

    The rest of this proposal… is questionable.

    -Mosheh Thezion

  5. Brit Webwell

    Critique…

    Change “selection of candidates for public office” to:
    public interest

    Change “election process” to:
    representative democracy

    Change “federal income tax revenues” to:
    federal revenues

    Remove 3) charges Congress…

    Change “That OWS invite a “blue ribbon panel” of non-partisan experts on constitutional law to draft the
    amendment (including, for example, retired Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the blistering
    dissent to Citizens United).” to:
    That OWS invite a “blue ribbon panel” of non-partisan legal experts on constitutional law and academic experts on the corrosive influence of money to draft the amendment. For example, experts worthy of inclusion are retired Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the blistering dissent to Citizens United, and Lawrence Lessig, Harvard law school professor, who wrote the book “Republic, Lost How Money Corrupts Congress – and a Plan to Stop It”.

    Change “a plainlanguage” to:
    an articulate

    Change “Occupy the Constitution” to:
    Occupy the Election

    Change “revolutionary movement” to:
    “ground-swelling movement”

    Change “It is utterly non-political and non-partisan, and seeks to remove the influence of private money from the election process as a whole.” to:
    It is utterly non-political and non-partisan, and seeks to remove the influence of private and corporate money from our representative democracy.

    Change “Its premise is simple: the system is broken, but the Constitution is not – and that the Constitution contains an appropriate and effective remedy for precisely the problem we are confronted by today.” to:
    Its premise is simple: the system is untrustworthy, but the Constitution is not – and that the Constitution contains an appropriate and effective remedy for precisely the problem we are confronted by today.

    Change “…tax dollars of the citizens who employ them.” to:
    …federal revenues of the citizens who employ them.”

    Change “It is time to “Occupy the Constitution” – where “we the people” were born, and still hold the ultimate
    authority – and commit ourselves the causes of individual conscience and fundamental, lasting change in
    the conduct of our government.” to:
    It is time to “Occupy the Election” and restore trust in our representative democracy – where “we the people” rule, and still hold the ultimate authority – and commit ourselves to the causes of individual conscience and fundamental, lasting change in the conduct of our government.