Notes from Nov. 12 Open Discussion: SJR29
Nine people met 11/12/11 for a publicized Open Discussion of the proposal:
"As money has been a corrupting force in our democracy, and disproportionately favors the desires of the few over the needs of the many, Occupy Boston supports the "Constitutional Amendment to Reform Campaign Finance" introduced in the Senate last week allowing Congress and the states to limit money in politics."
SJR29 proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections. IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES NOVEMBER 1, 2011 Mr. UDALL of New Mexico (for himself, Mr. BENNET, Mr. HARKIN, Mr. DURBIN, Mr. SCHUMER, Mr. MERKLEY, Mr. WHITEHOUSE, Mr. BEGICH, and Mrs. SHAHEEN) introduced the following joint resolution; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
JOINT RESOLUTION Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the UnitedStates relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections. Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), that the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years after the date of its submission by the Congress:
The text of SJR29 is: ARTICLE— SECTION 1. Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections, including through setting limits on— (1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, Federal office; and (2) the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates. SECTION 2. A State shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in kind equivalents with respect to State elections, including through setting limits on— (1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, State office; and (2) the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates. SECTION 3. Congress shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation.’’
Notes from the Occupy Boston Open Discussion on SJR29:
Strong Concerns and Objections
Everyone had strong concerns and objections to SJR29. There were two themes to these concerns:
- SJR29 is weak and leaves huge holes, such as addressing disclosure of anonymous donations. It seems like a hasty effort to placate naive citizens without really addressing the root causes of the problem of corporate influence on politics. It leaves the foxes in charge of the henhouse, since politicians would be determining how to regulate their own election funds.
- SJR29 opens up disastrous consequences by being overly simple in its statement. Nothing would stop state and federal governments from arbitrarily defining what a "election" is in order to gain the power to regulate funding on any topic.
We could challenge the legislators involved to explain how SJR29 would fix the root causes of politics being controlled by money rather than votes.
Keep a broad message
It is most important to speak out consistently about broad issues, such as class mobility. Occupy Boston should not focus prematurely on concrete issues, especially legislation, which is full of semantic potholes. At the same time, there is a lot of ground work to be done to get ready for supporting concrete actions at some future date. We can begin educating and organizing people about this topic.
Research and Education
Since getting a Constitutional Amendment passed is a long and arduous process, we should be very careful about investigating any proposed legislation before endorsing it. Continuing to educate people and draw in supporters is the right thing to do at this stage. Pages of notes about legislation were donated for posting to this wiki as background information. Two speakers that would add a lot to our understanding are:
- Larry Lesig from Harvard
- David Copp, who is speaking at various Occupations.
Two organizations are already investigating this issue and we should coordinate our efforts with them. Participants from these groups will join our email list and create accounts to write to this wiki. We should join their meetings as well.
- Move to Amend has nationwide and Massachusetts organizations
- Coffee Party has a Facebook page and mailing list: email@example.com
January 20 & 21 Occupy the Courts Action
We should learn about this effort by Move to Amend, and consider endorsing it. Direct action events are powerful for many people, along with support of specific legislation that passes scrutiny.