Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Under this amendment, from whom could candidates raise money?
A: All federal candidates (Congress, Senate, President) would be only able to accept donations from individuals eligible to vote in their race. Note these key words and phrases:
By “individuals,” this means an actual human being. No PACs, corporations or other entities could give. By rescinding the legal principle of “corporate personhood,” only voters would count as an actual “person” with rights to donate money.
By “eligible to vote in their race,” this means U.S. House candidates could only accept donations only from eligible voters in their House district; Senatorial candidates from within their state; and Presidential candidates from individuals in the U.S.
Q: Hasn’t the Supreme Court already ruled some elements of this amendment illegal? Doesn’t that make it a non-starter?
A: No. Any Constitutional Amendment ratified by the states supersede any related Supreme Court rulings.
Q: Political campaigns and advertising are very expensive. Can voters within a Congressional district actually fund a competitive campaign within current donation limits?
A: Yes, especially if campaigns become far less costly. Data from OpenSecrets.org shows roughly 80% of all donations to incumbents came from outside their voting territory. Remove all this outside money, and our federal elections become less expensive (and shorter). Also, candidates will no longer split their time and access between local voters and outside donors – a practice that dilutes local representation.
Q: Isn’t amending the U.S. Constitution nearly impossible?
A: The U.S. Constitution has 27 amendments. The amendment came in 1791, barely two years after ratification of the U.S. Constitution. This added the first 10 amendments, known as the Bill of Rights. The Constitution has been amended 17 times since – or on average of once every 13½ years. We’ve currently gone more than 28 years since the last amendment in 1982. So we’re more than due.
Q: Isn’t it unusual to alter elections rules by amendment?
A: No. It actually is the most common reason for amendments. After ratification of the Bill of Rights, 11 of the remaining 17 amendments (or 65%) have adjusted our elections and rules of elected offices.
Q: How does this amendment affect public financing of political campaigns?
A: This amendment does not reference public financing. But by removing up to 80% of money from Congressional and Senate races, this will lower the cost of elections and, in turn, lower the cost to theoretically publicly finance competitive races.
Q: What about super-rich individuals self-funding campaigns? Will they still be able to vastly outspend their less rich competition?
A: The vast amount of money in politics from super-rich individuals comes from outside candidates’ voting territory. Outlawing that money will significantly level the playing field, reduce the cost of federal elections, and increase the representation of voters in D.C.
That said, this amendment doesn’t prevent rich individuals from self-funding their campaigns (provided they’re eligible to vote in their own race). But this amendment doesn’t prevent states from passing laws to level that playing field. For instance, a state could significantly tax political TV advertising beyond a certain limit to fund a public-matching or subsidy system.
Q: How does this affect state and local elections?
A: This amendment affects only federal elections for U.S. House, U.S. Senate and U.S. President.
Q: How long will this take?
A: This will be partly determined by us voters. The louder we demand, the shorter the timeline. In theory, the highest hurdle will be passing Congress by a two-thirds vote of both chambers. But with public pressure and presidential backing, it could pass quickly given that opinion polls regularly peg the popularity of election reforms above 80% regardless of party.
Once the amendment goes to the state, ratification rules do vary by state, and pressure will need to be applied state-by-state. However, resistance to the amendment should be less as the reforms do not apply to state or local races.
Q: What’s wrong with allowing non-corporate political action committees (PACs) to give to candidates?
A: Anything that dilutes the importance of voters to the election process dilutes our representative democracy. This results in elected officials indebted to non-voter sources of money and providing extra access to those donors.
Also, the nonpartisan aspect of this amendment is very important. To get two-thirds of voters to back any reform, you can’t say corporate donations are okay, but not donations from labor unions. And if a PAC is completely local, then it won’t be hard for contributors to that PAC to make individual donations to the candidates they support.
Q: What inspired creation of this proposed amendment?
A: Over the past 40 years as corporations and special interests have acquired out-sized influence over the agenda and operations of our federal government, the question became how voters could wrest back our central place in our democracy. Great hope existed for a time in sensible Congressional reforms, but each time these either stalled, were watered down or overturned by the courts. With the 2010 Citizens United ruling, the Supreme Court legalized dark money and codified into law the notion that political donations are protected as free speech and that corporations had the same right to this kind of speech as an actual person. Then it became clear the only way to wrest back our democratic principles before it was too late would be by a citizens-led Constitutional Amendment effort.