S.J. Res 4 (114th Congress)
Introduced by Sen. B. Sanders (I-VT)
Legal Personhood: n/a
Money as Speech: B
Whereas the right to vote in public elections belongs only to natural persons as citizens of the United States, so shall the ability to make contributions and expenditures to influence the outcomes of public elections belong only to natural persons in accordance with this Article.
Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to restrict the power of Congress and the States to protect the integrity and fairness of the electoral process, limit the corrupting influence of private wealth in public elections, and guarantee the dependence of elected officials on the people alone by taking actions which may include the establishment of systems of public financing for elections, the imposition of requirements to ensure the disclosure of contributions and expenditures made to influence the outcome of a public election by candidates, individuals, and associations of individuals, and the imposition of content neutral limitations on all such contributions and expenditures.
Nothing in this Article shall be construed to alter the freedom of the press.
Congress and the States shall have the power to enforce this Article through appropriate legislation.
[Note: This proposal is identical to the one Sen. Sanders introduced in the 113th Congress.]
The first proposal Sen. Sanders introduced in the 112th Congress tackled corporate personhood in a thoroughly partisan manner. This version, originally introduced in the 113th Congress, has dropped the matter entirely, which isn’t partisan, but it also isn’t anything. So it’s no longer a corporate personhood amendment but just a piece of campaign finance reform legislation crudely hammered into amendment language. As such, it is effective in empowering Congress and the states to impose campaign finance regulations but it does an incomplete job of neutering Buckley and Bank of Boston.
The lack of a definition for “natural persons” could pose problems for future generations dealing with an explosion in medical tech and biotechnology. It could also be expanded to include artificial entities by a majority pro-corporate Court that sees an easy way to manipulate an undefined word. “Living human beings” is a better term because it prevents broadening the definition to include legal fictions or narrowing the definition to exclude living human beings from an unpopular subgroup or who may have come into the world through significantly artificial means.
Sen. Sanders language could effectively prevent corporations and their front groups, as well as unions, non-profits and other legal fictions, from directly or indirectly spending to influence the outcome of elections, but it does nothing to empower Congress to regulate issue advocacy on ballot measures, pending legislation, public opinion, etc. It also completely ignores corporate constitutional rights. It may be an improvement on the Sanders-Deutch proposal in the 112th Congress but ever so slightly.