H.J Res. 97 (112th Congress)
Introduced by Rep. J. Yarmuth (D-KY)
Legal Personhood: n/a
Money as Speech: D
Financial expenditures, or in kind equivalents, with respect to a candidate for Federal office, without regard to whether or not a communication expressly advocates the election or defeat of a specified candidate in the election, shall not constitute protected speech, as guaranteed by this Constitution or any amendment to this Constitution.
Congress shall have the power to enact a mandatory public financing system to provide funds to qualified candidates in elections for Federal office, which shall be the sole source of funds raised or spent with respect to Federal elections.
Congress shall set forth a legal public holiday for the purposes of voting in regularly scheduled general elections for Federal office.
Rep. Yarmuth’s campaign finance reform approach is both too narrow and too broad. It’s too narrow in that it only deals with political candidates and not issue advocacy on things like ballot measures or pending legislation. It’s too broad in that it includes “in kind equivalents,” which could come in the form of speech, meaning that this proposal could actually take First Amendment protection from government censorship away from actual political speech. When corporate alarmists suggest that pro-amendment advocates are really trying to stifle free speech, this is the kind of proposal that could actually make their case.
Public financing is a partisan issue that can be accomplished via legislation. There’s no evidence suggesting anywhere near enough popular support for it in the form of a constitutional amendment. But more importantly, this is merely granting Congress the “power” to enact public financing, not a mandate itself. Overturning Santa Clara, Bank of Boston and Buckley would accomplish the same goal more effectively and without the partisan battles this language would engender.
Election Day as a public holiday is a great idea that can be accomplished in legislation. Every unnecessary provision makes the whole amendment harder to adopt.
Rep. Yarmuth’s language fails to abolish corporate constitutional rights or abolish the Supreme Court’s definition of spending money as an expression of speech, even as it empowers Congress to actually abrogate sections of the First Amendment. Add the presence of the public financing system and this proposal is a complete non-starter.