It's time to amend U.S. Constitution in order to limit the influence of money on electionsAug 23, 2017 Alan K. Simpson
Money's dominance over politics isthe No. 1 problem our nation faces. It is a growing crisis that prevents us from tackling anything else.
We have now reached a stunning point: Either we are a country that makes decisions based on the common good, or one where the size of your wallet determines the worth of your ideas. Either we uphold the values of a representative democracy, or we allow greed and wealth to destroy the great American experiment in self-governance.
I am fully committed to working with all of you and with Americans across our country to pass a 28th Amendment to our U.S. Constitution so that people, real persons --not money, corporations, unions or special interests, but "we the people"-- govern America.
We in Wyoming have a unique opportunity to help make this happen. Wyoming Promise (WyomingPromise.org) is a citizens' grassroots effort to get big money out of politics. It is working with several national organizations, including American Promise (AmericanPromise.net), which are coordinating similar efforts in many states.
I serve on the cross-partisan National Advisory Council of American Promise and ask that you might join in our work to sound the alarm and to rally our nation to secure our constitutional foundation before it's too late.
I assuredly do not take lightly any proposal to amend our Constitution, and I recognize, as did James Madison, that we should do so only on "great and extraordinary occasions."
I believe the nation now faces just such an occasion.
We need a constitutional amendment because the U.S. Supreme Court, in cases such as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, has made a series of dangerously wrong decisions that make effective reform virtually impossible without a constitutional amendment.
The Supreme Court has stated that money to buy political influence is the same as freedom of speech. The Supreme Court decreed that the largest, most-powerful corporations have the same Constitutional rights as we human beings to spend money to influence our elections.
The Supreme Court is wrong. No one has the right to drown out the freedom of others to speak, or to deny the rights of all Americans by corrupting our political process. And no corporation can ever take over the fundamental, inherent rights of human beings - individual citizens.
We do know this in Wyoming. Our Wyoming Constitution declares, "In their inherent right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, all members of the human race are equal." Unlike the Supreme Court, we do not get confused about the differences between human beings and corporations. Our Wyoming Constitution also states, "Corporations being creatures of the state, endowed for the public good with a portion of its sovereign powers, must be subject to its control."
In our Wyoming Constitution, we also insist on the truth of our political equality. This is an equality not of material goods or sheer luck but the simple American equality where having a lot of money does not give anyone any more political rights than anyone else. Section 3 of the Wyoming Constitution could not be any clearer: "Since equality in the enjoyment of natural and civil rights is only made sure through political equality, the laws of this state affecting the political rights and privileges of its citizens shall be without distinction of race, color, sex, or any circumstance or condition whatsoever..."
What right and privilege could be more important than one person, one vote -- being able to stand up as an equal citizen to have your say in our political system, knowing that the political game is not rigged to favor concentrated wealth?
We need to get back to basics of our Constitution and our political system. As a nation, we cannot accept the law of aristocracy, where the political rights of people are based on their wealth.
I urge you to support a 28th Amendment to the Constitution so we can have reasonable limits on election spending, reform pay-to-play politics, and secure human liberty and equal representation rather than turn our government over to a global corporate marketplace.
Millions of Americans have signed on to support the 28th Amendment. Republicans, Democrats and Independents agree that we must do this. In Montana and Colorado, voters have approved 28th Amendment ballot initiatives by 75-25 percent. Most recently, Nevada became the 19th State to call for the 28th Amendment.
We can, and we surely should, place Wyoming firmly on the right side of this fight for the future of our democracy. But, like any great cause, we have much work ahead of us. Wyoming Promise is working to collect 39,000 signatures from registered voters across the state in order to get a cross-partisan, citizen-driven initiative on the November 2018 ballot that would call for a 28th Amendment to restore free and fair elections.
I eagerly look forward to working closely with you to bring the people of Wyoming and the country together to win a 28th Amendment and restore our Wyoming promise of human liberty, equal citizenship, and responsible self-government.
Join us. There is work to do. Visit www.wyomingpromise.org to find out how you can help.
Editor's note: Alan K. Simpson is a retired United States Senator who represented Wyoming from 1979 to 1997. He lives in Cody.