Restore Democracy Amendment

In recent decades, the Supreme Court has made it nearly impossible for us to enact essential campaign finance reforms by striking down limits on spending by corporations, unions, and ultra-wealthy individuals. Since we cannot count on the Court to overturn those decisions on their own, we must pass a constitutional amendment to shift power back from nine unelected judges to Congress, state legislatures, and voters (aka We The People). The Restore Democracy Amendment will accomplish that goal, paving the way for limits on campaign spending, overturning Citizens United, and instituting publicly financed elections.

The exact language of the Restore Democracy Amendment is bolded below, followed by a detailed explanation.

To foster robust political debate and to protect government and the electoral process from undue influence by artificial entities and aggregations of wealth,

Nothing in this Constitution shall prevent Congress and the States from placing limits on the contributions made to a candidate for elected office, on expenditures advocating for or against any such candidate, on a candidate’s own expenditures, and on expenditures advocating for or against any ballot initiative or referendum.

Congress and the States shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation, including by implementing public campaign financing, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations, unions, or other legally recognized entities.

Nothing contained in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.


The Prefatory Language

The first sentence of the Restore Democracy Amendment asserts important values behind the amendment. One goal is fostering robust debate. When a billionaire or corporation can drown out average Americans, that’s not a debate; it’s a monologue. Our constitution should make it clear that fostering robust debate is a priority. Secondly, since the Supreme Court will not acknowledge that corporations, unions, and ultra-wealthy individuals pose a threat to the integrity of our government and our elections, we make that abundantly clear.

Shifting Power Back to We The People

The second sentence of the Restore Democracy Amendment addresses the fundamental problem with our campaign finance system. For too long, Congress and state legislatures have tried to enact powerful campaign finance reforms–contribution limits, spending limits, or publicly funded elections–only to have the  Supreme Court thwart those efforts with ill-conceived decisions like Citizens United or Buckley v. Valeo. We The People keep trying to pass laws to protect the integrity of our political system, but nine unelected judges keep getting in our way. The Restore Democracy Amendment will shift the balance of power back to We The People.

The amendment makes it clear that Congress and the States can pass legislation to place limits on campaign contributions (this is already permissible), outside spending (like Michael Bloomberg or the Sheldon Adelson spending tens of millions on ads to support or oppose a candidate), a candidate’s own spending (i.e. a candidate can only spend $1 million of their own money), or on ballot initiatives or referenda (this applies to states that have these processes so that states can protect those campaigns from being dominated by just a few mega donors). To be clear, the amendment itself does not enact any limits. Limits would only be enacted if Congress, state legislatures, or voters enact them.

Nonetheless, this provision is extremely important because it reclaims our authority to pass and enforce campaign finance laws. Questions of how much money an individual can spend on an advertisement in support of a candidate or whether or not candidates should receive matching funds from their state are simply better decided by Congress and state legislatures than by the Supreme Court. That’s why the Restore Democracy Amendment will allow We The People to decide how to protect the integrity of our democracy.

Distinguishing Between Human Beings and Artificial Entities / Public Financing

The third sentence makes it clear that Congress and States can enact the limits mentioned above through legislation, that publicly financed elections are permissible, and that in setting limits, Congress or States can distinguish between flesh and blood human beings, corporations, and unions. For example, in the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act, Congress enacted limits on spending by unions and corporations. The Supreme Court struck them down in Citizens United v. FEC. This amendment makes it clear that such limits are indeed, permissible.

Protecting the Freedom of the Press

The final sentence of the Restore Democracy Amendment protects the freedom of the press. By making it permissible to limit spending by corporations or unions to support or oppose political candidates, we do not intend to prevent a newspaper from endorsing a candidate in their editorial pages or stop Saturday Night Live from poking fun at a presidential debate. The final sentence of the Restore Democracy Amendment makes it clear that the other provisions of the amendment should not apply to legitimate news gathering and dissemination. For more details on this specific issue, see our Frequently Asked Questions.

Now that you’ve learned all about the Restore Democracy Amendment, the next step is to help us make it a reality. Please sign up to volunteer and make a donation to support our work. There is no better way to help get big money out of politics.