S.J. Res. 5 (114th)
Introduced by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)
Legal Personhood: B
Money as Speech: B
Section 1. To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.
Section 2. Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.
Section 3. Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.
[Note: This proposal is identical to the one Sen. Udall introduced in the 113th Congress.]
Sen. Udall’s proposal uses some strong language but restricts itself to electoral politics, completely ignoring advocacy communications for processes like ballot initiatives, pending legislation or swaying public opinion on international trade pacts. The term “artificial entities” includes non-profits and unions but the lack of an explicit mention of unions makes it more cumbersome to describe and defend from detractors.
The proposal does a relatively good job of defining “natural persons” in the Constitution, but, as technology and biotechnology rapidly advance, the definition of natural persons may not be as inclusive as we believe today. “Living human beings” is less ambiguous and cannot be so easily redefined. More importantly, it makes it more difficult for an activist Court to expand the definition of personhood to include legal fictions.
Sen. Udall’s proposal would make a difference and open a pathway to campaign finance reform but it wouldn’t go far enough in abolishing corporate constitutional rights or ending the doctrine of treating the spending of money as a form of protected speech.