Senate Dems want constitutional convention to control corporate money in politics

Senate Dems want constitutional convention to control corporate money in politics

Sen. Paul Pinsky

Photo above: Senator Paul Pinsky

By Rebecca Lessner

For MarylandReporter.com

Maryland Senate Democrats want to remove the “dark money” from politics by calling a constitutional convention. However, Republican senators fear amending the U.S. Constitution through a convention will “potentially rip-open the First Amendment.”

SJ 2 was heard on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, with 15 Democratic legislators calling for a “Convention of the States,” under Article V of the U.S. Constitution. The bill specifically asks for the repeal of the 2010 Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court.

The Citizens United decision removed limits on the amount of money a corporation can spend on political campaigns; whether disclosed to the public or in the form of “dark money,” funds kept hidden until after voting.

“I dislike the Citizens United Supreme Court opinion, but at the same time as a constitutional lawyer, I do share concerns about being able to limit a convention,” said Senate President Mike Miller. “Once you get three-fourths of the states doing the same thing, I do not think it can be limited.”

Two-thirds of U.S. state legislatures must support a convention to bypass Congress and pass an amendment.

To go into effect, three-fourths of the state legislatures must then approve the amendment, as they must do for any change in the constitution.

“I go along with this, at this point in time, just to send a message to Congress,” said Miller.

Republican Sen. Robert Cassilly, Harford, fears legislators will lose control over the process.

“I would submit to you, that throwing things open to an Article V convention, really avoids that deliberative process” the legislature engages in, said Cassilly. “We throw this to a political body, that none of us know who’s going to be on it, to come up with laws that none of us know in the heat of their political process.”

Getting the attention of Congress

Republican Sen. Michael Hough argued that if legislators want to get the attention of Congress, a convention is the wrong way to do it.

Hough offered an amendment to  strip out references to a convention and make the bill a “simple resolution” to send a letter to Congress.

With the letter, Hough took comfort in the fact that the “ambiguous language on how to amend the Constitution” would be struck, and not sitting on Marylands’ record far into the future. The call for a convention would not expire and would sit on the books for an unlimited number of years unless the legislature revokes it.

The amendment failed with an 18-29 vote.

Sparking a conversation

Sponsor of the bill, Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, believes that a letter will not ignite the spark amongst states he is looking for.

“Part of our hope is to move conversation. To have additional states take up this call and hopefully get the attention of Congress, or a new Supreme Court,” said Pinsky.

Pinsky said the constitutional amendment would make clear the corporations do not have the same rights as persons.

“Corporations are not natural people…they do not have the right of free speech. Of taking your money, your bills, and spending it on candidate X or issue Y,” said Pinsky.

In repealing the Citizens United decision, corporations would need to disclose where their funds go and give voters an idea of who is supporting whom politically.

“Can you really limit it in that degree?” asked Cassilly.

“It’s true that we haven’t had an Article V convention since the [1787] convention in Philadelphia took place,” said Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, bill co-sponsor and a constitutional law professor at American University, “But we have had hundreds and hundreds of calls for such a convention.”

“I appreciate everyone’s love and care for our most precious document, but it’s a living document,” made to be amended as the times change, said Raskin.

“We’ve got a runaway Supreme Court right now…a corporation was never understood to have the political free speech and spending rights of the people.”

21 Comments

  1. Christina Karlhoff

    Seems like Senator Hough & those who agree with him need to unlearn a few things about Article V. Don’t they realize that they just publicly displayed their trust in the fox taking good care of the hen house? Talk about not seeing the forest because of all the trees in the way…Or, they know exactly what a State Convention would mean and simply chose to pledge allegiance to the dollar and the status quo…either way i’m equally disappointed in the House Committee decision. So people, let’s not give up that easily…aim for 2016!

  2. DCRussell

    I note that none of these hypocritical anti-free speech senators want to muzzle unions, only corporations. None of them have ever explained adequately why it is ok for the government and unions to compel members to pay dues to support left-wing candidates, but bad for shareholders to voluntarily invest in companies that support shareholder and business-friendly candidates.

    • Ob Serdious

      Call up any union and ask them if they prefer to spend their money on organizing workers or donation large sums of money to campaigns of candidates and you will find out how ridiculous your statement is. It is time to regulate large donations by ALL artificial entities.

      • Cha5678

        Prefer? The union will say whatever sounds pleasing. However as long as union membership is driven primarily by state mandates of unionizing public workers and certain industries (and keeping up pension farces and increasing the minmum wage to automatically increase union wage contracts), the unions will spend not on their current membership but in buying politicians to serve the Union leadership with more dues

        • Ob Serdious

          so then you agree with me. we should take this kind of money out of the political system. I am not disagreeing with you. I believe this kind of money corrupts politics. we need to get back to one person/one vote. It it not democracy when a corporation takes the profit from the item I have paid for and then turns around to use it to work against my best interests whether that corporation is a business or a union.

          • Cha5678

            We should, but a war on campaign cash will be as leaky and pointless and corrupt as the war on drugs. It’s better to restrict the powers that money can buy by reducing and limiting the political power of any one politician or political body.
            Also – once you pay them that dollar you have no claim whether they use it for or against your interests. That’s why we have various movements buying or boycotting from companies/methods/nations.

  3. Joe Adams, M.D.

    Please get it straight. It is NOT a “constitutional convention.” It’s a Convention of the States. (sometimes called an “Article V Convention”). It is a “convention for proposing amendments” in the words of Article V of the Constitution. But it is NOT a “constitutional convention” for crying out loud.

    There are two reasons the convention could never “runaway” (I can’t believe we’re having this conversation). (1): The Justice Department, Bar Association, Congressional Research Service, and legal scholars agree that the scope is clearly limited to the topic specified by the states who called for it, and (2) only the most wildly popular bipartisan amendment could possibly be ratified by both houses of three fourths (38) of state legislatures, which is the final hurdle for all amendments, however they are proposed.

    • PatriotWatchdog

      “For crying out loud” Doc Adams. I can’t believe someone with your credentials hasn’t done their homework and has fallen for the word-mincing game. By definition, the “legal” definition of “constitutional convention” recognized by the legal industry, Black’s Law Dictionary, includes an amendment convention such as an Article V “Convention for proposing Amendments.”

      Read it yourself: http://thelawdictionary.org/constitutional-convention/

      Mincing words over whether or not an Article V “Convention for proposing Amendments” can be called a constitutional convention is like debating the differences between a “blood clot” which could form anywhere in the body and “deep vein thrombosis.” The potential resulting hazard to the patient’s health is the same should said “clot” break free and travel somewhere in the heart, lungs, or brain.

      A full plenipotentiary constitutional convention and an amendments convention are a distinction without a difference in that an amendment can be the change of one word, or the change of everything but one word.

      For Senator Raskin to make the following comment speaks volumes to either his lack of attention to detail in the choosing of his words, or his incompetence as a “constitutional lawyer” and legislator, or worst case scenario, he’s sold out to the “grand bargain” power and money brokers:

      “It’s true that we haven’t had an Article V convention since the [1787]
      convention in Philadelphia took place,” said Sen. Jamie Raskin,
      D-Montgomery, bill co-sponsor and a constitutional law professor at
      American University,’

      For crying out loud, Doc, (to borrow your phrase) we’ve NEVER had an Article V convention. The 1787 convention in Philadelphia was conducted under Article 13 of the Articles of Confederation, NOT under Article V. A “constitutional law professor” / state senator should know that as well.

      Doc, you make the declarative statement that Congress will send any proposed amendments to state legislatures for ratification, as if that is a certainty. That there are two methods of ratification is a fact revealed by a simple reading of Article V. That Congress has proposed both methods means that not only can they choose an alternative method, “by Conventions in three fourths thereof,” but they have in fact exercised both options, making your declarative statement regarding ratification but one of two possibilities.

      These discussions over either semantics or the Article V process are certainly interesting, but are more importantly “diversions” incorporated into the narrative and talking points of the architects of this “here we go again” push to trigger a convention designed to serve multiple objectives, not the least of which is to get you and I to NOT have an honest discussion about identifying the “real” problems so we might discern what “real” solutions we should consider.

      As a doctor, your ability to help a patient rests heavily on your correctly identifying the root problem as such, and not merely treating the symptoms that brought the patient into your office in the first place. Merely treat the symptom and not the root cause and the patient will be back again, if they survive the neglected root malady.

      I doubt you would recommend a kidney transplant because a patient is having difficulty breathing. Adding words to a Constitution that NO government body has been faithfully upholding and defending under the pretense that usurpations are simply misunderstandings or misinterpretations is naive, if not outright dishonest. “Treason to the Constitution” is what has been going on. That’s a “personnel” problem, not a “structure” problem as Mr. Farris claims. That is how U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall described in Cohens v. Virginia (1821) public servants who either refuse to do what the Constitution requires, or who attempt to do what it forbids.

      The Constitution isn’t the problem. Amending it is therefore, NOT the solution. State legislatures have all the constitutional authority they need to rein in an out-of-control Washington, D.C. They just need to have the faith and courage necessary to have the honest conversations with the public that none of them have been willing to have out of fear of losing their jobs… yes, their job security is more important than our nation’s survival.

      So, by all means, let’s get it straight. By definition, an Article V “Convention for proposing Amendments” is a constitutional convention. It is a convention authorized by the constitution to discuss and propose amendments to the “supreme Law of the Land.” You want to argue semantics?

      I am so pleased that the professional industries that profit from litigation, and the government entities (such as the Justice Dept., whose leadership works at the pleasure of the President) who are most likely to be impacted by amendments to the Constitution would convolute and confound the process with requirements and stipulations that simply cannot be found or justified in the actual text of the Constitution.

      Does it surprise anyone that the Justice Dept., Bar Association, and CRS might express a bias favorable to their own continued existence?

      Lastly, the “final hurdle for all amendments” isn’t the potential ratification of those amendments. The final hurdle is actually the first hurdle that people drunk with an amendment solution fever is enforcement of any amendment.

      Until state governments and the citizenry hold themselves accountable first, there is no holding the federal government accountable, and there is no language we can amend the Constitution with that will make it self-enforcing.

      That the states are just as guilty of violating their duty to the people as the feds are, and that the states continuously aid and abet the feds in abusing the rights of the people, and that two of the arguably most damaging amendments proposed in the past century which undermined individual prosperity and surrendered state control over the U.S. Senate (16th and 17th Amendments) were ratified by state legislatures, are each very damning warnings to not trust state government to protect our individual God-given Rights from abuses by government.

      That there is a documented history of professionally choreographed and funded efforts by agents of the billionaire boys clubs which attempted to mask their efforts to trigger an Article V Convention as a “grass roots” movement that mirrors the issue-specific Article V applications passed by the states in the 1940’s (Limited World Government), 1970’s (Balanced Budget Amendment), 1990’s (Congressional term limits).

      And here we go again, starting in January, 2010 when ALEC reps announced they had a plan sitting on the shelf, ready to pull the trigger, if Washington got too far out of control.

      Well, here we are in 2015 (Convention of States, Compact for America, and WOLF-PAC, to name a few) all of which can be directly traced to the billionaire/millionaire boys clubs, COS and its parent Citizens for Self-Governance include founding members of the same movement from the 1990’s U.S. Term Limits, Inc. push, that resulted in numerous states buying into the snake oil salesman’s pitch that states have authority under Article V which they clearly do not. The result then? Numerous court cases, resulting in multiple courts including the U.S. Supreme Court striking down those provisions added to state constitutions related to Article V.

      Fear-mongering during each of these cycles that the end-of-life-as-we-know-it was over if we don’t trigger a convention right now is where we are again. Each time the carpetbaggers tell the states and the people this is the only solution. Each time they ignore the existing sovereign authority of the states under the existing federal constitution as if none exists.

      Respect should be given. Trust is earned. State governments have done little to nothing to earn the “trust” of We the People that they would be good stewards of the protections of our Rights and Liberties at an Article V convention.

      Yes, doc. Let us ‘please get it straight.’ The Constitution isn’t the problem, and amending it isn’t the solution. We shouldn’t be useful idiots to trusted surrogate decision-makers. That is not self-governance.

      If you want to see who is involved in the ‘grand bargain’, you can get a good overview here: http://patriotcoalition.com/docs/Grand-Bargain-2015.pdf

    • PatriotWatchdog

      “For crying out loud” Doc. The “legal” definition of “constitutional convention” recognized by the legal industry, drawn from Black’s Law Dictionary, includes an amendment convention such as an Article V “Convention for proposing Amendments.”

      Read it yourself: http://thelawdictionary.org/constitutional-convention/

      Mincing words over whether or not an Article V “Convention for proposing
      Amendments” can be called a constitutional convention is like debating the differences between a “blood clot” which could form anywhere in the body and “deep vein thrombosis.” The potential resulting hazard to the patient’s health is the same should said “clot” break free and travel somewhere in the heart, lungs, or brain.

      A full plenipotentiary constitutional convention and an amendments convention are a distinction without a difference in that an amendment can be the change of one word, or the change of everything but one word. It doesn’t much matter what we call it: con-con, constitutional convention, amendments convention, Article V Convention, etc…, if the convention we are referring to is one authorized by Article V of the U.S. Constitution.

      For Senator Raskin to make the following comments defies logic:

      “It’s true that we haven’t had an Article V convention since the [1787]
      convention in Philadelphia took place,” said Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, bill co-sponsor and a constitutional law professor at American University,’

      Doc, we’ve NEVER had an Article V convention. A state senator / constitutional law professor should know like the back of his hand that the 1787 convention in Philadelphia was conducted under Article 13 of the Articles of Confederation, NOT under Article V of the U.S. Constitution.

      Doc, you make the declarative statement that Congress will send any proposed amendments to state legislatures for ratification, as if that is a certainty. That there are two methods of ratification is a fact revealed by a simple reading of Article V.

      That Congress has proposed both methods means that not only can they choose an alternative method, “by Conventions in three fourths thereof,” but they have in fact exercised both options, making your declarative statement regarding ratification but one of two possibilities.

      These discussions over either semantics or the Article V process are certainly interesting, but are more importantly “diversions” incorporated into the narrative and talking points of the architects of this “here we go again” push to trigger a convention. It was designed to serve multiple objectives, not the least of which is to get you and I to NOT have an honest discussion about identifying the “real” problems so we might discern what “real” solutions we should consider.

      As a doctor, your ability to help a patient rests heavily on your correctly identifying the root problem as such, and not merely treating the symptoms that brought the patient into your office in the first place. Merely treat the symptom and not the root cause and the patient will be back again, if they survive the neglected root malady.

      “Treason to the Constitution” is what has been going on. That’s a “personnel” problem, not a “structure” problem as Mr. Farris claims. That is how U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall described in Cohens v. Virginia (1821) public servants who either refuse to do what the Constitution requires, or who attempt to do what it forbids.

      The Constitution isn’t the problem. Amending it is therefore, NOT the solution. State legislatures have all the constitutional authority they need to rein in an out-of-control Washington, D.C. They just need to have the faith and courage necessary to have the honest conversations with the public that none of them have been willing to have out of fear of losing their jobs… yes, their job security is more important than our nation’s survival.

      So, by all means, let’s get it straight. By definition, an Article V “Convention for proposing Amendments” is a constitutional convention. It is a convention authorized by the constitution to discuss and propose amendments to the “supreme Law of the Land.”

      I am so pleased that the professional industries that profit from litigation, and the government entities (such as the Justice Dept., whose leadership works at the pleasure of the President) who are most likely to be impacted by amendments to the Constitution would convolute and confound the process with requirements and stipulations that simply cannot be found or justified in the actual text of the Constitution.

      Does it surprise anyone that the employees of the Justice Dept., Bar Association, and CRS might express a bias favorable to their own continued existence?

      Lastly, the “final hurdle for all amendments” isn’t the potential ratification of those amendments. The final hurdle is actually the first hurdle that people infected with Article V fever don’t want to discuss: enforcement.

      Our nation is in the situation it is in today because We the People have been absentee employers for so long we’ve forgotten who works for whom, and who is ultimately responsible for ensuring, upholding, defending, etc… the Constitution we’ve consented to be governed by? Each of us.

      Until state governments and the citizenry hold themselves accountable first,
      there is no holding the federal government accountable, and there is no
      language we can amend the Constitution with that will make it self-enforcing.

      That the states are just as guilty of violating their duty to the people as the feds are, and that the states continuously aid and abet the feds in abusing the rights of the people, says we need to fix that first, or the new master will look a lot like the old one.

      Two of the most damaging amendments proposed in the past century which undermined individual prosperity and surrendered state control over the U.S. Senate were the 16th and 17th Amendments. That they were ratified by state legislatures doesn’t make “trust us” are each very compelling warnings to not trust state government to protect our individual God-given Rights from abuses by the federal government.

      There is documented history of professionally choreographed and funded efforts by agents of the billionaire boys clubs to trigger a convention, and that they attempted to mask their efforts to trigger an Article V Convention as a “grass roots” movement that mirrors the issue-specific Article V applications passed by the states in the 1940’s (Limited World Government), 1970’s (Balanced Budget Amendment), 1990’s (Congressional term limits).

      And here we go again, starting in January, 2010 when ALEC reps announced they had a plan sitting on the shelf, ready to pull the trigger, if Washington got too far out of control.

      Well, here we are in 2015 (Convention of States, Compact for America, and WOLF-PAC, to name a few) all of which can be directly traced to the billionaire/millionaire boys clubs. COS and its parent Citizens for Self-Governance include a founding member of the same movement from the 1990’s U.S. Term Limits, Inc. push, that resulted in numerous states buying into the snake oil salesman’s pitch that states have authority under Article V which they clearly do not. The result then? Numerous court cases, resulting in multiple courts including the U.S. Supreme Court striking down those provisions added to state constitutions related to Article V.

      Fear-mongering during each of these cycles that the end-of-life-as-we-know-it was eminent if we didn’t trigger a convention right now is where we are again. Each time the carpetbaggers tell the states and the people this is the only solution. Each time they ignore the existing sovereign authority of the states under the existing federal and state constitutions as if none exists.

      Respect should be given. Trust is earned. State governments have done little to nothing to earn the “trust” of We the People that they would be good
      stewards of the protections of our Rights and Liberties at an Article V
      convention. The 2012 NDAA authorized the violation of no fewer than 14 provisions in the U.S. Constitution including over half of the Bill of Rights.

      Most state legislatures wouldn’t even consider, let alone pass resolutions expressing their belief that the law was unconstitutional, let alone uphold their oath and interpose between the citizenry and a rogue federal government. And we are to trust them to operate on the Constitution?

      Yes, doc. Let us ‘please get it straight.’ The Constitution isn’t the problem, and amending it isn’t the solution. We shouldn’t be useful idiots to trusted surrogate decision-makers. That is not self-governance.

      If you want to see who is involved in the ‘grand bargain’, you can get a good overview here: http://patriotcoalition.com/docs/Grand-Bargain-2015.pdf

  4. John De Herrera

    Whatever is discussed then goes before the people for ratification, and a 3/4 super majority mathematically precludes idea that do not have overwhelming and broad support. If we can’t trust ourselves as a society, guess who we’re back to trusting? Get the facts: http://www.foavc.org

  5. paul rankin

    Yet another horrific idea from our Senate. So, SJ 2 would prohibit Maryland delegates to a Constitutional Convention from proposing amendments “…that do not have the primary goals of addressing the goals listed in [SJ 2]. And these goals are…what exactly? Oh, nothing much, just: “rejecting the doctrine that artificial entities have inalienable political rights,” regulate (somehow) campaign contributions and electioneering expenditure, and restoring free and fair elections in Amierica.That’s all. Just a total re-write of the nations campaign laws in the context of a virtually unalterable form, i.e. the U.S. Constitution, which Raskin concedes has been altered only a few times in the history of the nation. And, when today’s brilliant minds discover too late they made a few errors in the amendment, well, too bad.

    Oh, and let’s not forget that our Delegates’ amendments only have to have the “primary” goal of furthering the goals expressed in the Resolution. It must be ok to have any number of secondary and tertiary goals. Well, never mind. I am certain our Senators found this to be a fun way to blow off some steam and waste a couple of hours in the Statehouse.

    • Ob Serdious

      it seems paul, that you would rather a business that you give money to, lets say any one of the utilities you use, would take your money and lobby against your interests to benefit their bottom line and the pocketbooks of their shareholders. This method pushes you as a voter out of the influential sphere of law writing. Your idea of a waste of time is hilarious. Raskin also said, “the U.S. Constitution is a living document.” It has been modified by every generation since its writing. Amendment are precisely how oversights or cultural changes get fixed. Reading your anti-improvemnt diatribe is the only waste of time here

  6. louis dubi

    We can give a Corporation an abortion.. or a heart transplant, or sign it up for Obama care..
    Hmmmm

    • DCRussell

      I keep seeing people complain about or try to ridicule some concept relating to “persons,” but I can’t find the word in the First Amendment. There is a right of people to assemble to to petition the government. Seems like they are simply trying to scare people into opposing free speech or the right of shareholders from assembling to petition the government. Why the dishonesty about motives?

      • Ob Serdious

        I don’t understand your comment. The purpose of this resolution is to put the power of elections back into the hands of individual human beings. One person/one vote. Neither Unions nor Corporations are are individual people. The artificial creations of the state are just that, and artificial creations should not have Constitutional rights. There is no dishonesty here, Mr. Russell.

        • Cha5678

          Maybe. However the rhetoric has been focused solely against for profit corporations. And the legislative attempts, such as the disclose act, sought to limit for profit corporations.

          • Ob Serdious

            your statement is not true, the original language of this bill referred to “artificially created” entities. Unions are artificial entities.

      • Cha5678

        The first amendment includes media corporations in the free press and long have non-profits been protected from speech codes.
        This is just the radical left trying to decide who does and does not get rights for the express purposes of building leftist political power

  7. EvanRavitz

    ‘Republican senators fear amending the U.S. Constitution through a convention will “potentially rip-open the First Amendment.”’ Yet Republicans as a whole want to get money out of politics almost as much as Democrats, 78% to 82%. Don’t let those senators speak for you, Republicans! SO many worry warts fear a convention, when a convention is how we the US got started. Jefferson wanted a whole new Constitution every 19 or 20 years!

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