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The Threat of Big Money in Politics and the Call for a 28th Amendment

The Threat of Big Money in Politics and the Call for a 28th Amendment

John Bonifaz, Derek Cressman

While Americans agree that there is too much money coming from too few people in our political campaigns today, a debate over how to address that problem raises an even larger question about whether or not we still have a Constitution that works to provide a government of, by, and for the people. In particular, the question is whether we still have the capacity to amend our Constitution as a way to check and balance a runaway Supreme Court.

Our situation is not inevitable, but rather the predictable results of Supreme Court rulings going back forty years that have wrongly equated unlimited campaign spending with the freedom to speak our conscience as protected under the First Amendment.

I completely agree that the US Constitution should be amended, on a number of fronts including reversing Citizens United, but our problems started long before the 40 year old Buckley v Vallejo decision which created the doctrine that money is speech. In 1886, the Supreme Court endowed corporations with personhood, which entitled them to equal protection under the law. It’s been downhill ever since. As long as corporations can claim Constitutional rights, including first amendment rights, we cannot deny them access to our political process.

Yes indeed we need a constitutional amendment (the We the People Amendment), one that will relieve corporations of their Constitutional rights and reverse Buckley V. Vallejo, to say money is not protected speech. Undo those doctrines and we can make sensible and binding campaign finance law.


Prior to Common-dreams liberating itself from “Disqus,” what likely were trolls or sock puppets DAILY propagated the message that voters were to blame for the decline of our nation.

Often I pointed out all of the things that disempowered voters. But I was out-gunned by the Troll Show.

I agree with this assessment 100% since it reflects the same objections I aired in opposing the “blame voters” frame:

“Americans now find ourselves in a situation where true power no longer solely resides within our three branches of government, but within a narrow cabal of political campaign donors that decides who can run for office as a viable candidate, who will win elections, and what issues will be put forth for debate. Any individual donor doesn’t always see his or her favorite candidate win—sometimes they lose to other big money candidates. But with the candidate who raises the most money winning nine out of ten congressional campaigns, big money donors have collectively prevented candidates lacking access to wealth from governing the country.”

William Brandeis (former Supreme Court Justice) explained that a nation could EITHER have extreme concentrations of wealth OR Democracy… but not both.

The Piketty Study proves that great wealth has been amassed ONLY at the top of the fiduciary “food chain” and much of this has been a direct result of the deregulation of Wall Street’s link to banking; and the public being forced to bail out the BAD BETS of the resulting Casino Capitalism to the tune of TRILLIONS of dollars.

Here inside “The Homeland,” the Page and Gilens Study reciprocally PROVES that voters’ interests are almost NEVER reflected in the actual laws and policies set by Congress and The People’s so-called representatives.

It’s ALL bogus now!

To understand how government became sabotaged by Big Money, Jane Mayer’s detailed history of the Koch Brothers’ (and others) use of lobbying firms, think tanks, and message Control (along with the strategic funding of specific candidates) shows HOW the carnage–to Democracy–came to be.


It’s true the corporate/elite take over started some time ago but it’s more obvious now and news about it more available.
We must amend our constitution to reflect our will to get money out of politics. But what worries me is, it seems since G. W. Bush’s presidency there has been a lawlessness that has blanketed this country, an air of corruption. Republicans make up rules for the House and Senate as they go along. Refusing to hold a vote on a Supreme Court vacancy is one example of elected officials disrespecting and not adhering to the constitution. Ya, Republicans, the one’s always yapping about it. The Supreme Court legislating from the bench is another example, Citizens United.
My point is if elected officials and the voters don’t believe and trust the constitution it probably won’t be amended, it will be destroyed.
So what state is our constitution in, in the hearts of Americans? Does anyone still believe in it? It doesn’t look like the elected officials do.


This amendment is absolutely necessary to take control of our government back from the elite oligarchs. Make no mistake, it is a very heavy lift. Leaving aside the first ten amendments, the “Bill of Rights”, that were necessary to get the Constitution to be adopted, we have only passed 17 amendments, out of over 10,000 proposed since 1790. And we have not adopted a truly significant amendment since the voting age was lowered to 18 in 1971 by the 26th Amendment. The 27th Amendment is a technical amendment having to do with when the pay of Congress can be raised. Even at that, there has not been a successful amendment attempt since 1992! We need to adopt the long-term view of the right-wing activists who spent 30 years waging a successful fight to take over the government at all levels after the Goldwater defeat of 1964. Also, remember that Hillary Clinton was a “Goldwater Girl” in that campaign.

“Is our distribution of powers between our three branches of government so out of whack that a supermajority around one of the few issues that unites most Democrats, Republicans, and independents can no longer amend our constitution as the framers promised?”
Answer: Probably. Many of you recognize, as do I, that the way to right the unsustainable trajectory of humanity is to restore the female voice. How? The societies which have accomplished peace and prosperity for all (our presumed goal) have all been matrilineal, matrilocal and/or matrifocal. Our own American government was modeled on the Iroquois Confederacy, one of the best-known of these. Unfortunately, when the Founding Fathers invited the elders to the First and Second Constitutional Conventions, only the males came. So, our three branches of government, copied from theirs, came into being, and still exist today, however degraded and compromised. The fourth branch, what I call the “Council of Matrons,” was not adopted, and so the vital female voice was lost. Why not restore the fourth branch? It is a democratically elected body of post-menopausal women, elected by post-menopausal women, which has veto power over the other three, and the right to relieve any elected official of his (her) seat whenever wrongdoing is proven. Furthermore, it selects the chief from among the candidates presented by the other branches. Also, as the guardian of the food supply, it can prevent wars by denying provisions to the military. I envision this movement as a grassroots voluntary tsunami, from village to state, restoring our female voice to the political equation. No laws need be enacted (it would be advisory only, to begin), nor funds allocated (local donors could cover the modest needs), and, best of all, no power need be removed from those who already serve. If you have ever envisioned yourself as a political activist (or even if you haven’t), yearn to see the change that will save us, or crave participation as part of the female avant garde (this includes men!), I respectfully invite you to join our FB page: Council of Matrons (Maui).

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“Yet, both polls and results from state and local ballot measures consistently show that 75% to 85% of Americans disagree with the Citizens United ruling and want it reversed. Is our distribution of powers between our three branches of government so out of whack that a supermajority around one of the few issues that unites most Democrats, Republicans, and independents can no longer amend our constitution as the framers promised?” - Yes, the distribution of power in the US is so imbalanced that supermajorities of 99% are insufficient to sway “lawmakers” in acting justly.

I really like the idea of a Council of Matrons a al the Iroquois although I can unfortunately only imagine this happening in an America within an alternate universe and not in this one. Perhaps, it may turn out like this in several centuries from now but only after America experiences a great downfall as a result of the destructive path that it has been on for so long now.

Voters are to blame for the candidates we elect. How can it logically be otherwise? Unless you are charging that virtually all election results are rigged, voters vote in the winning candidates.

Yes, there is no question that the corrupting influence of money in politics and a subservient media make it difficult to get at the truth and make intelligent decisions about candidates and issues. But not impossible. You seem to be able to do it. Many other commenters do as well.

I’ll give you this: Often, and especially in presidential elections, the candidates representing the two major parties in the general election are the “blessed” candidates of the 1%. But the primaries give us an opportunity to hear other candidates and to vote for them if we like their ideas. This is where voters have a chance to make a difference. And this is where voters need to think for themselves, do some digging (and today there is so much information available to voters if they just bother to look for it), and vote for people who will make real change – starting with getting money out of politics.

Impossible? No, and Bernie Sanders is the proof of that. Against all odds, in the face of media ridicule, party shenanigans, and massive infusions of money to Clinton from the 1%, Sanders is doing well, thanks to ordinary people like you and me and millions of others who are supporting his candidacy.

But Sanders is not doing as well as I would like. And ultimately, if he loses the nomination, it won’t be the fault of the media and the wealthy Clinton supporters and the misrepresentations of his positions. It will be the fault of the primary voters who don’t seem to be willing or able to see through all of that, the way that you and millions of others have.

One question: If voting is useless, how do you propose that real change is going to happen in this country?

That downfall may be sooner, rather than later, depending upon the outcome of the current election. The “beauty part” of the Council of Matrons plan is that it needs no one’s permission, and, always remember, we are the majority!

It’s a great idea, but I don’t think the people on the receiving end of all that money are going to back an amendment to cutoff the flow of money.

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I am a big advocate of impeaching Supreme Court Justices.

If the U.S. military was put before the Hague for War Crimes, surely the Chief Justices who did NOTHING to thwart the flow of weapons, the fixed case for war, and the false elections putting war-hawks into power would be IMPEACHED as a best case scenario.

Thank you for your comment. And I appreciate the “nod” on the item of how much agency the average citizen (or body of the citizenry, as a whole) now holds with respect to the species of policies put into operation.

On a DAILY basis, a legion of posters relentless push a meme that blames voters, citizens, “all human beings/human nature,” and/or all Americans as if such false blanket statements really address the issue of Power’s abusers and abuses!

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Thank you for this major elaboration. I confess I would not have recognized any duplicity on the part of the article’s authors without someone like yourself stepping in to provide a boatload of constitutional law and analysis (both present and historical).

I hope others read your post.

Too often it’s the superficial comment that receives the most “likes” and a comment of this caliber appears to go right over the heads of “the regulars.”

Again, thank you.

I cut and pasted this to my own notes.

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If Sanders manages to get the nomination… then there would be merit to your comment.

However, if all of the machinations in place to prevent Sanders from obtaining that; and in Tea Party fashion a billionaire misfit is propped up (with endless free press coverage) to serve as a so-called “populist voice” (appealing mostly to angry white men)… then no, your putting the onus on voters is just proof that YOU have bought into an illusion.

IF the game is rigged… what voters do has NO consequence. It’s just there for show.

Are you one of the idiots who thinks Nader stole the election from Gore? Or that Bush won either the 2000 or 2004 elections? If so, you need to educate yourself.

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I’ve seen too many of your bullying and browbeating comments, over silliness like typos and pronouns, to take you too seriously, so I’ll ignore the junior high name-calling.

But I will make these points: (1) Last night in Minnesota, Bernie Sanders urged people to get out and VOTE. But why should they bother if voters are “disempowered,” as you say? Why bother if “It’s ALL bogus now!”?

(2) I’m putting the onus on voters to see through all the machinations and the spin and all the other obstacles that an intelligent, informed voter needs to wade through. You seem to have done it. Why do you think others can’t?

(3) You never answered my question about what your alternative is to voting. How do we effect real change if not through voting for people who are committed to bringing about that change?