[Note: Russell Simmons is a well-respected and highly successful businessman whose involvement helps to popularize this cause in ways that most can only dream of. What his proposal lacks, his presence more than makes up for.]
All elections for President and members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate shall be publicly financed. No political contributions shall be permitted to any federal candidate, from any other source, including the candidate. No political expenditures shall be permitted in support of any federal candidate, or in opposition to any federal candidate, from any other source, including the candidate. Nothing in this Section shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.
The Congress shall, by statute, provide limitations on the amounts and timing of the expenditures of such public funds and provide criminal penalties for any violation of this section.
The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
This article shall be inoperative unless it is ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution.
Public financing is a more partisan issue that doesn’t have anywhere near the kind of popular support required for an amendment, even among liberals. Neither of these provisions succeed in overturning Buckley v. Valeo, resulting in a conflict with the First Amendment that could be used to skirt this language. By focusing only on federal campaign spending, both of these provisions leave the states vulnerable and neither address advocacy spending on policy issues unconnected to campaigns, leaving a gaping grey area easily exploited by public relations professionals (aka, propagandists) and their lawyers.
Carving out an exception for the free press is entirely unnecessary in this amendment.
Russell Simmons’ language is essentially campaign finance reform in the compact form of an amendment. It would probably have a net positive impact on the electoral process, at least initially. But the problem with this approach is that campaign finance reform is much more complicated than an amendment is capable of addressing, resulting in language that is either incomplete or vague. This amendment is a little of both. It would be better than the rules we have now, but it wouldn’t necessarily solve the problems created by Buckley and it would do nothing about corporate constitutional rights.