The recently released 2016 Democratic Party platform proposes adding two new amendments to the Constitution. The first would overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United and Buckley v. Valeo rulings on campaign financing. The second proposal is to pass the so-called Equal Rights Amendment, and would go one step further by urging U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) — an international treaty adopted in 1979 by UN General Assembly.
The platform reads:
Democrats support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United and Buckley v. Valeo. We need to end secret, unaccountable money in politics by requiring, through executive order or legislation, significantly more disclosure and transparency — by outside groups, federal contractors, and public corporations to their shareholders. We need to amplify the voices of the American people through a small donor matching public financing system. We need to overhaul and strengthen the Federal Election Commission so that there is real enforcement of campaign finance laws. And we need to fight to eliminate super PACs and outside spending abuses.
Our vision for American democracy is a nation in which all people, regardless of their income, can participate in the political process and can run for office without needing to depend on large contributions from the wealthy and the powerful.
The two Supreme Court decisions cited in the platform were significant for protecting the right of free speech of organizations engaged in making contributions to political campaigns. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (decided in 2010) the Supreme Court held that freedom of speech prohibited the government from restricting political expenditures by non-profit corporations. The principles outlined by the High Court in the case have also been extended to for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other associations. Citizens United, a conservative 501(c)(4) non-profit organization, wanted to air a film critical of Hillary Clinton and to advertise the film during television broadcasts. A U.S. District Court ruled that airing the film within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary was a violation of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, also known as the McCain-Feingold Act or BCRA. However, in Citizens United, the Supreme Court reversed that decision, striking down those provisions of BCRA that prohibited corporations (including non-profit corporations) and unions from making independent expenditures and “electioneering communications.”
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