Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 27, the “People’s Rights and Integrity Restored in Elections (PRAIRIE) Resolution” is a grassroots-inspired nonbinding resolution that would make Illinois the 14th State to call for a 28th Amendment to the Constitution to remedy the corrupting effects of big money flowing from the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission decision and other related decisions.
November 2012, 73% of Illinois residents voting on ballot questions similar to the PRAIRIE Resolution called for a Constitutional amendment to control the corruption of democracy by big money. These voters transcended party affiliation and geographic location.
The PRAIRIE Resolution is intended to be a statement of popular political will, not a legal brief. We believe it to be crucial that the Resolution receives broad bipartisan support.
It affirms these principles fundamental to a living democracy:
- That the rights protected by the Constitution and enumerated in the Bill of Rights are the rights of natural persons and not of corporations and other artificial entities;
- That, although money can facilitate speech, it use is not, in and of itself, speech within the meaning of the First Amendment and can be regulated;
- That corporations and other artificial entities are subject to regulation by the people through the legislative process so long as the regulations are consistent with the powers of Congress and do not limit the freedom of the press.
- That government can require disclosure of, limit, and regulate all election contributions and expenditures;
- That the ordinary citizen has a fair opportunity for his or her political views to be heard by creating a level playing field in election spending.
The January, 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), combined with the July, 2010 District of Columbia Court of Appeals decision in Speechnow.org v. FEC, lifted all limits on campaign expenditures by corporations, unions, associations, other artificial entities, and by individuals, provided that the contributions and expenditures go to so-called “independent expenditure” political action groups.
Citizens United also extended First Amendment unlimited free speech protections to the spending of money by corporations and other artificial entities to influence elections. In every practical sense, the 5-4 majority ruling means that money is speech protected by the First Amendment.
These two rulings led directly to the explosion of Super PACs that have unleashed a Niagara of unlimited money from an infinitesimal portion of the electorate, drowning the voices of ordinary citizens and therefore presenting a radical threat to democracy. Three of every four Americans believe that Citizens United will greatly worsen political corruption and extreme undue influence over our elections and the government itself.
The exponential growth of unlimited outside Super PAC money at the Federal level alone is illustrated by this statistic: in the 2010 election cycle, 83 Super PACs spent $63,271,000. In the 2012 cycle, 1,310 Super PACs spent $609,418,000, an 863% increase. Obviously, the mere threat of Super PAC money at the State and local level could easily be enough to control the outcome of elections. (Opensecrets.org; Outside Spending)
The actual sources of much of these funds are undisclosed. This money is used to finance deeply misleading, come-from-nowhere political attack ads. Such methods insult the electorate and debase democracy.