Monday might be a very big day.
The California State Senate is set to vote on AJR-1, a resolution introduced to the California State Assembly in 2012 by Representative Mike Gatto. It calls for a constitutional convention for the purpose of revoking corporate personhood in regards to free speech and limiting campaign finance.
It has already passed the California State Assembly. And the Senate judiciary Committee. It was set for a vote last Thursday, but was tabled for unspecified reasons (rumors are some of the yes votes were absent at the time). It has been rescheduled for a vote on Monday, June 23, 2014.
A very similar resolution has already passed in Vermont. The movement, led by Larry Lessig and other citizen-funded groups was the very definition of grass roots. (Registering nary a ripple in the national media, of course.)
Similar resolutions are in various stages of percolation in 10 different states, introduced and supported by both Democratic and Republican legislators who’ve had enough.
Article V of our ceaselessly amazing U.S. Constitution allows for conventions to be called by the states, circumventing the federal government. It requires 2/3 of the states to call for the convention and 3/4 of the states to ratify the amendment once the convention puts forth a resolution. In short, we need 34 states to call for a convention and 38 states to ratify an amendment proposal.
It is also critical to note that constitutional conventions are required be very specific. They can only be held regarding the issue for which they were called. No switcheroos or add-ons after one has been convened.
Of the people. By the people. Like music to the ears, innit?
Needless to say, if AJR-1 does pass in California, it would be historic. The largest state in the union would have called to amend the U.S. Constitution for the express purpose of returning the democracy back to the American people.
It would be a chance to undo the damage done by the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) which proclaimed corporations as people and preventied bipartisan campaign finance reform on the grounds that money is speech protected by the U.S. Constitution, as well as McCutcheon v. FEC decided in April of 2014, in which SCOTUS struck down many of the remaining limits on campaign contributions. These decisions effectively allowed for the purchase of entire elections by private interests. It’s what led to the explosion of Super PACs and their shady regulations.
But let’s call this for what it is: legalized corruption. A recent Princeton study found that voter opinion has no discernible influence federal lawmakers. The only opinions that moved the needle were rich donors and the lobbyists that work for them. In other words, lawmakers are only listening to the people who fund their campaigns. Money for influence. All that comes out of it is voter apathy and stymied political discourse (and cash windfalls for a select few). It’s the reason we can’t do anything about climate change, or for-profit prisons, or gun control, or our schools, or any of the monumental and mounting issues we face.
So long as SCOTUS holds that money equals protected speech, they can shoot down any campaign finance reform law anyone tries to pass. And so far, they pretty much have.
AJR-1 is a means to put an end to this broken corrupt system.
Of course, that’s if it passes. And make no mistake, it would only be the first salvo in what could very well be a long and hard fought political war.
But however the vote goes in the California State Senate, the fight is only beginning. Often times, the powers that be try to slow cook hot-button issues. They wait for the furor to die down, occasionally placating the disquieted masses with some meager, symbolic concessions, then get back to business when the noise dies down and interests shift (the 4 biggest banks are bigger now than they were before the 2008 crash…por ejemplo).
We can’t continue to let this happen. It’s not about going after the super rich donors or even the politicians. Its about tearing down the system that has squeezed the people out and made us inaudible.
We’re late in the game in California, but if you support the idea of exercising the power of the people and getting money out of politics, I urge you to call your California state senator Monday morning (you can find your state reps here) to let them know you support AJR-1 and you want them to vote yes.
Even if you don’t live in California, call your state legislators. Let them know you support a constitutional convention to get money out of politics. Demand it. Tell them you want your democracy back. (Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a catch-all database. The best way to find your representatives is to type in “who are my representatives” and then your state in your favorite search engine. Usually in the first 2 or 3 choices you’ll find one that only requires your address or zip code and then finds your reps along with contact info for you. Teh interwebs are awesome.)
96% of Americans say that the influence of money in politics needs to be reduced. 91% believe nothing can be done about it.
It’s well worth it to show them.