Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Restoring the American Dream – Part III


What Happens When Corporations Run Our Government?

What you get is plunder. And I have to say this, the American people have to understand that there is a huge difference between free market capitalism, which is a good thing because it makes us more efficient, more prosperous, and more democratic, and the kind of corporate-crony capitalism which has been embraced by this White House.” – Robert Kennedy, Jr. (5/2/2004) [Note: The reference to the White House in this quotation was directed at the Bush administration at the time, but it even exists to a certain extent in the present administration as well.]

The Bottom Line. We must get private contributions* out of politics. Private contributions in politics are among the main reasons why Congress puts corporations and special interest groups first and the people last, even though it is the people that they are supposed to serve first and foremost. That is the root of all the bad legislation and lack of control that allowed our capitalist system to run amok and bring this country into financial ruin. That is the cause of the huge gap in income and wealth between the top 1% and the bottom 99%. That is the cause of outsourcing virtually all of our major manufacturing processes, most our job losses and most of our home foreclosures. So, getting private contributions out of politics is the major imperative. And it means, not just getting the private contributions out of the elections, but also out of all politics. As long as people and corporations are allowed to contribute to politicians, those politicians will forever be tainted with acting in the interests of those contributors and not our country or the private citizens they are elected to represent.

*In this context, examples of “private contributions” include the transfer or promise of transfer of any item of value to or from any member of Congress, OR his or her staff or family (within the third degree of kindred). Items of value include, by way of example and not limitation: monetary considerations, property, gifts, trips, airfare, accommodations, meals, speaking engagements, stipends, fund raising events, political advertising, surveys, petitions, get-out-the-vote campaigns, employment, personal favors, or services, including the drafting of proposed legislation for a Congress member or his or her staff, or the providing of information not in the public domain that might be financially beneficial or politically advantageous to either the Congress member or a lobbyist, consultant,or adviser. However, this provision would permit volunteer campaign workers who perform routine office tasks in direct support of a candidate for office for prescribed periods of time during an exploratory period, the primary campaign, and the general election. For management, consulting, and advisory campaign positions, the Congress member must pay the prevailing rate for such positions on the open market.

How Might This Be Done? There are several ways to accomplish this. Unfortunately, given the present state of our country and our democracy, some of them may not be feasible.
  1. It could be done on a voluntary pledge basis, but this would have no force of law behind it to motivate individuals to adhere to it. It is still worthy of consideration as an interim measure pending a more acceptable, permanent solution.
  2. It could be done through adding text to the oath of office that every office holder must take, stating that they have not accepted and will not accept anything of value while in elective or appointed office or while under consideration for any such office. This might be somewhat cumbersome, but it might still be worth pursuing.
  3. It might be possible to accomplish this through Congressional legislation. However, with the symbiotic relationship that exists between personal contributors and politicians, and the lack of cooperation between the two parties presently in power, it is highly unlikely that Congress would ever pass such legislation. Any such legislation would have to be based upon federally provided campaign funds that would be equal for every candidate for federal office, would be based upon the population and geography of each state district, and would require more extensive use of the Internet and public service television coverage to conduct campaigns.
  4. It could be done with a Constitutional amendment, but such amendments must originate either in Congress or in the state legislatures throughout the country. Because virtually all elected representatives accept contributions of some sort, this, too, may be virtually impossible.
  5. Or, it could be done with a combination of these items, starting first with the pledge for incumbents, the oath of office for newly-elected or newly-appointed individuals, then legislation and Constitutional amendments.
However, there is one particular, rather radical step that we can take right now, starting with the primary elections for Congress this year.  Here's how it would work:

Hit Them Where It Hurts! We all know that Senators and Representatives freely ignore those people and those issues that they choose to ignore. They are blind to major problems that are right before their eyes and turn a deaf ear to anything that they don't want to hear. But there is one way to really get their attention. The one thing they cherish most highly are their seats in Congress. They value these seats so highly that they are willing to compromise their principles to secure them and their moral values to keep them. Their greatest fear is the loss of their positions in Congress, and the power, status, and prestige that go with them. If they fail to deliver democracy back to the American people, the people they are supposed to represent, then we will act against them – in full electoral force

Here Is Our Challenge to Congress. Congress must show good faith to the American people and make whatever changes are necessary to get items of value totally out of politics forever. Except for a Constitutional amendment, they must make any legislation or other action effective October 1, 2012. Candidates for office will be allowed to expend any monies they have raised up to that date, but mus not accept any more contributions or other assistance of value. They must also include a plank in their respective party's platform to submit a Constitutional amendment to the American people not later than June 30, 2012. If they fail to accomplish this by the aforementioned dates, the people of American will be strongly encouraged to reclaim their democracy through other means, some of which are described described below.

Use Your Clout and Vote Them Out! If Congress fails to pass the legislation required to accomplish the items described above, and if you care anything about our democracy and its future, then we need to hit them where it will do us and the country the most good – at the ballot box. The power elite may have a huge advantage over us when it comes to money, but we have a huge advantage over them when it come to voting. Because of that, we can and will reclaim our democracy if we follow the rules below.

Suggestion #1. Spread the word to everybody, especially the 20% who are unregistered, the 23% who vote rarely, and the 22% who vote intermittently. Their votes will not only count in this and future elections more than ever before, but they will be especially critical now, because they will be voting on reclaiming our democracy from the power elite who have taken it from us.

Suggestion #2. Flood every member of Congress with e-mails, letter, tweets, phone calls, and petitions, calling for immediate legislative reform to get private contributions out of politics entirely (not just a reversal of the Citizens United ruling), including legislation to remove any congress member who violates these reforms, once implemented. Inform them that, if they do not actively support these reforms and put the will and interests of the people ahead of their personal interests, those of their party, and those of their financial backers, that they will be voted out of office one by one, even if it takes twelve years to do so.

Suggestion #3. When it come to voting in the PRIMARY* elections, let's put our vote where our convictions lie, and vote for anybody BUT a Democrat or a Republican. Vote for the best of the third-party or independent candidates – just NOT a Republican or a Democrat. (The ONLY exception to this should be a candidate who has pledged to actively support efforts to restore our democracy by getting private contributions out of politics entirely.). Do not consider this to be a “wasted vote.” It is a vote FOR DEMOCRACY, and that can never be a wasted vote. And it is a vote AGAINST CORRUPT POLITICS. A vote for a major party's candidate is a vote in favor of the status quo and against democracy.. In that sense, a vote for a major party candida can be seen as a wasted vote, because it just helps maintain the present corrupt system of politics and government.

*In the GENERAL election, it is still preferable to voter for anybody but a Democrat or a Republican. However, there maybe some situations where the voter might feel they must vote for “the lesser of two evils” to avoid the possibility of electing considered to be
extremely undesirable.

Suggestion #4. If there are only Democrats or Republicans on your ballots, do not vote for either of them, UNLESS they too have demonstrated good faith in returning democracy to the American people and have pledged to take an active role in getting private contributions out of politics entirely..

Suggestion #5. Help get the vote out, especially those who either don't vote or only occasionally vote.

  1. Form neighborhood groups, if you don't already have some. Meet on a regular basis to discuss this issue earnestly, honestly, and openly. Explain why it is important to you, to them, and to our country. Ask each member to bring at least one new member to each subsequent meeting, to broaden your base.
  2. Explore and possibly join efforts with other like-minded civic organizations in your area to further broaden your base, increase your power, and lend more public credibility to your efforts.
  3. Form a telephone bank and place calls to people in the neighborhood. (You can get listed phone number of your neighbors at WhitePages Neighbors by keying in your own address.)
  4. Offer to help people get registered and volunteer to drive them to the polls on election day if necessary.
  5. Keep a log of all people called and any commitments made, to ensure that they are met.
  6. Follow up with calls on election day to determine last-minute questions or problems.
Suggestion #6. Continue this for each election until Congress enacts the necessary legislation to restore to American citizens the democratic republic that our founding fathers established for usIn any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing. – Theodore Roosevelt

Will This Work? Will this process alter the outcome of the coming Federal elections? That all depends on how well received this process is, how dedicated people are to regaining their democracy, and how much they want to root out corruption in our government. Our point here is to demonstrate how dissatisfied the American people are with the state of affairs in our country and with the complicit involvement of our government in depriving us of our democracy. If our elected officials refuse to act in good faith, then we will have to respond at the polls and, if we get the strength we know is out there, we will gain a few responsive seats in Congress and serve notice to any of the survivors that they may be next.

Onward and Upward. There are many, many more critical issues that need to be addressed and resolved. However, this proposal addresses the one serious problem that is at the root of almost all of other major problems that we presently face. Please continue to work on those as well. And keep this strategy in mind if the Congress fails to act on them as well as this particular issue.

"I believe democracy to be of all forms of government the most natural, and the most consonant with individual liberty. In it no one transfers his natural rights so absolutely that he has no further voice in affairs, he only hands it over to the majority of a society, whereof he is a unit. Thus all men remain, as they were in the state of nature, equals". – Spinoza

Restoring the American Dream - Part II


"Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day." – Theodore Roosevelt, April 19, 1906

What's Happened to Our Democracy? Here we are, touted as one of the greatest democracies the world has ever had, but, in this day and age, our democracy is a sham, a farce, perhaps even a lie. Oh, we have many of the trappings of a democracy. We preach democracy to the rest of the world. We praise those countries in the Middle East who are struggling for democracy themselves. But, irony of ironies, we don't really have a democracy ourselves. We don't even have a democratic republic.

The American polity is infected with a serious imbalance of power between elites and masses, a power which is the principal threat to our democracy. – Paul Wellstone

So, What Do We Have? The democracy which we all learned to treasure so much exists no more in this country. In its place, we now have not just an oligarchy – a political system governed by a few people – but a plutocracy. – a political system governed by the wealthy people. They have become our masters, and we have become their serfs. Another irony: Our forefathers came to this continent to escape the aristocracies of Europe, only to leave the door open for their descendants to be ruled by a form of government that closely resembles aristocracy.. Average citizens may not have iron shackles around their ankles, but they are shackled financially and serve at the mercy of the plutocrats.

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.” –Thomas Jefferson (1812)

We're not a democracy. It's a terrible misunderstanding and a slander to the idea of democracy to call us that. In reality, we're a plutocracy: a government by the wealthy." -----Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General (2007)

Plutocracy and democracy don’t mix. Plutocracy too long tolerated leaves democracy on the auction block, subject to the highest bidder. Bill Moyers

How Did This Happen?  Over the past thirty years or so, Congress and big money interests have developed a mutually-beneficial, symbiotic relationship. Big Business has been increasingly generous to elected officials. And elected officials have been exceedingly generous to them in return. Favorable tax breaks, incentives, fewer regulations and lax enforcement have resulted in massive amounts of under-controlled and under-regulated capitalism and free enterprise, which has been allowed to run out of control. As a result, the top 1% of our population now takes in 25% of the income in this country, holds 40% of the total wealth, and virtually control the lives of 99% of the population.

"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." – Louis D. Brandeis, Supreme Court Justice (1916-1939)

The owners and top-level managers in large income-producing properties are far and away the dominant power figures in the United States. Their corporations, banks, and agribusinesses come together as a corporate community that dominates the federal government in Washington. – William Domhoff, Who Rules America: Power and Politics in the Year 2000,p. 1

Are the American People to Blame?  It would be overly-simplistic to say that we, the people, are to blame – that we were asleep at the switch, or that we were too apathetic to get involved. Yes, it would indeed be overly-simplistic, and it would be wrong. That is like saying that the victim of a crime is also the to blame for the crime. And there is no way the American people would have visited this kind of mess on themselves. They were lied to and misled. They had information withheld from them and spun to cover up the truth. In the end, they, were bilked out of their life savings and their homes by financial experts. Even more than that, they were bilked out of their democracy.

Who, Then, Is to Blame?
Here is a list from of entities who are blamed for creating our present financial crisis. (Source:

As can be seen, there is more than enough blame to go around for everyone. Do they all share the blame? Perhaps, but in differing proportions and for different reasons. However, David Stockman, who was Ronald Reagan's Director of the Office of Management and Budget and closely tied to the development of Reaganomics, but now he points to massive failures by Republicans

The new (GOP) catechism, as practiced by Republican policymakers for decades now, has amounted to little more than money printing and deficit finance — vulgar Keynesianism robed in the ideological vestments of the prosperous classes. This approach has not simply made a mockery of traditional party ideals. It has also led to the serial financial bubbles and Wall Street depredations that have crippled our economy.” – David Stockman, Wall Street Journal, (7/21/10),

Because of overlapping complexities and responsibilities, we will probably never know where the major blame should rest. In many cases, there was greed. In other cases, there was deliberate deceit. In still other cases, there was misplaced trust in governmental, quasi-governmental, and financial institutions. What should concern us now is getting ourselves out of this mess that our “leaders”have brought upon us. And, since we and our children, and our children's children will be paying for this mess for decades to come, we need to have a strong voice in any solution.

Continue to Part III 

Restoring the American Dream - Part I

I remain just one thing, and one thing only – and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician.” – Charlie Chaplin

The “Occupy” Movement. This movement has been active since September 17, 2011 . It was formed to bring attention to the fact that there are strong financial ties and mutual support between Wall Street and Congress that have contributed to some gross inequality, inequity, and iniquity. They drew attention to their cause by establishing encampments in cities across the country. Support comes not just from New York, but from all over the country and all over the globe. These are the cries of the weak, the needy, the down-trodden, the unfortunate, the disenfranchised, and of people of principle who unite with them in their struggle, not just for equality, but for survival.

If you ask the government for permission to protest it, you deserve to be told no." – Jim Lesczynski, Manhattan Libertarian Party Chair

The Grievances. There are massive numbers of problems that beset our country and it people today, The Declaration of the Occupation of New York City by the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators outlined 21 major grievances, and even then noted that the list was not all-inclusive. With a little more thought, that list could easily have numbered 100 or more.

"Our tradition is one of protest and revolt, and it is stultifying to celebrate the rebels of the past, while we silence the rebels of the present." – Henry Steele Commager

"During the last bubble (from 2002 to 2006) the top 1% of Americans -- paid mainly from the Wall Street casino -- received two-thirds of the gain in national income, while the bottom 90% -- mainly dependent on Main Street's shrinking economy -- got only 12%. This growing wealth gap is not the market's fault. It's the decaying fruit of bad economic policy … “My G.O.P. destroyed the U.S. economy. " – David Stockman, (former Director of Ronald Reagan's Office of Management and Budget)

The Over-Riding Point. The most important sentence in this Occupy Wall Street document sums up all the frustration and suffering that the people of our country have been forced to endure. It states,

No true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic interests. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments.” – Declaration of the Occupation of New York City

Four key words in this statement are “corporations ... run our governments.” This is especially true at the federal and state levels. The bottom line is: All of the other issues spring from this one root problem.

There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root. – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Big Money Drives Politics. Politicians need huge amounts of money to campaign for public office. Corporations (and the financial elite) need strong support in our legislative branches to ensure that their wealth will be protected and will continue to grow. The money brokers thereby become power brokers, helping to finance the campaigns of candidates who will protect the power elite's interests in return.

"A relatively small number of deep-pocketed donors exerted an outsize influence on Tuesday's [election] results," – Michael Luo/Griff Palmer, New York Times (11/3/10). "The big corporations are going to try to get what they paid for. – Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President, New York Times (11/3/10).

Money can't buy you love . . . but it can frequently buy you an elective office. Typically, in federal elections the candidate that raises the most money wins about 90 percent of the time. Most of this money comes from wealthy donors who expect something in return. And, whenever politicians accept huge monetary donations from deep-pocket sources, they are likely to feel indebted to do something for them in return, to ensure that those same sources will contribute again in future elections. Because money plays an undue role in how politicians are elected, it also plays an undue role in how they act. Even Glenn Beck agrees.

Wall Street owns our government. Our government and these gigantic corporations have merged.” – Glenn Beck, New York Times (9/19/09)

How Many Millionaires Does It Take to Take Control of the Politics of a Whole State? In the October 10, 2011 issue of The New Yorker, Jane Mayer reported how one conservative millionaire did exactly that. In North Carolina, a swing state that is expected to be important in the 2012 elections, one millionaire bankrolled the campaigns of 22 conservative candidates for the state legislature. Eighteen of them were successful, giving majority status to the Republicans in both houses of the state legislature for the first time since 1870.

For an individual to have so much power is frightening. The government of North Carolina is for sale.” – Chris Heagarty, Democratic candidate for the North Carolina legislature in the New York Times (10/10/11)

Money talks, and politicians listen . . . and they respond in kind to the benefit of corporations and the wealthy.. Was it just a coincidence that three of the five top corporate donors to the candidacy of Barack Obama and John McCain in 2008 (Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and Citigroup Inc.) were all among the top ten financial firms to be bailed out, to the tune of $80 billion? That amount of money could have provided from $25,000 to $50,000 for 1.6 million to 3.2 million homeowners to escape foreclosure and potential family ruin. The big three donors were seen as being “too big to fail,” but 1.6 million to 3.2 million homeowners, individually or collectively, were apparently not “too big to fail.” Let's face it. Big money owns Big Business, and Big Business owns the government (at both the federal and state levels).

If you are a major contributor and go to Washington, you might have a chance to have lunch with a senator or representative; or if you are a really big contributor, you might even end up at the White House. The closest chance you or I have at having lunch at the White House is buying a hot dog from the vendor on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the building. – Marc A Triebwasser, How Corporations Influence the Government (1998 )

Congress Members' Loyalties Once elected, members of Congress frequently ignore the people whom they are elected to represent. Their first priority is to get reelected. Their second allegiance is to their political parties. Third comes their financial backers. Then come their supporters – the people who voted for them, followed as a distant fifth the people in their district who did not vote for them,. And, dead last, come the needs and welfare of our country and all of its people.

A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation.James Freeman Clarke (1810–1888), Unitarian clergyman, writer

So, when Congress members say that they are going to consult with their constituencies, it isn't necessarily the people in their representational district to whom they are referring. They are just as likely to be conferring with their financial backers and lobbyists. When they do meet with their true constituency, it is just as likely that they will be trying to convince them on his or her stand of an issue rather than soliciting their input on the subject. A Congress member's constituency should be all of the people in the country. Next, it is supposed to be the voters or residents in a district represented by an elective officer. However, it doesn't always turn out that way. Here is a more realistic way of how many Congress members view their constituencies

Wall Street's Views of the OWS Protest. With regard to the Occupy Wall Street movement, one Wall Street money manager recently expressed disappointment that their New York Congress members had not “come out swinging for an industry that donates heavily to their campaigns.” He stated, They need to understand who their constituency is.He is saying, in effect, “To hell with the people; we are the ones they really represent.” Unfortunately, there is a great deal of truth to that premise.

"We've got government to the highest bidder. We've got auction block democracy. It's not true that each voter counts for one and only one; that's the way it's supposed to be in a democracy. Money determines who gets to run for office, how people run for office, it determines what people do while in office and the fact of the matter is the vast majority of people are cut out of the loop." – Senator Paul Wellstone (1992)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Restoring Democracy - One Vote at a Time

Our country is in the midst of its biggest political, social, and economic crisis since the Great Depression. This crisis was not caused by the people of the country, but by a runaway Congress. Congress has been bought by big money interests whom they dutifully serve at the expense of "the 99%." Our two major parties constitute a corrupt political duopoly that does the bidding of the wealthy plutocracy, and together they are transforming our country from a democratic republic into a fascist state.
Some of our politicians are preaching reform, such as reversing the Citizens United ruling, but this at best is just a token effort. These proposals are piecemeal approaches and very much like tossing a bone to a dog to keep him from biting. We cannot expect Congress to solve our root problems on their own, because Congress is the root problem. However, there a process we can implement that should motivate them to act on our behalf.
The one thing politicians fear most is the loss of their elected positions. Threatening them with this is probably the best way for us to get their attention and to let them know that we mean business. We will need to demonstrate our undivided strength as a threat to their retaining their positions. Then, if they don't act in our best interests, we can continue the process until they are all voted out.

So, how do we regain our rightful control over the government and restore power to the people? We stage a peaceful revolution -- a rebellion at the ballot box. In the Congressional primary elections, we need to vote against every Democrat or Republican incumbent, because they are all beholden to their parties and to the financial elite who contribute billions of dollars to their elections. But we must make sure not to replace them with other members of the same party machinery who will just continue their predecessors' practices. In short, we must cast our votes for independent or third-party candidates wherever possible and never for a candidate of the two major political parties.

There are more than 310 million citizens in this great country. A little more than 3 million belong to the top 1%, leaving 307 million in the bottom 99%. As long as we have the “one person, one vote” rule, we have the numbers; we have the strength; and we have the clout to vote them out.
In the last presidential election, there were 206 million citizens who were eligible to vote, but only 131 million actually did, leaving 75 million who chose not to vote. If we can get just 20% of that 75 million to vote as recommended herein, we can send a very powerful 15 million vote message to our politicians – enough to sway even the hardest of hearts..
We must communicate our plan to both voting and non-voting citizens alike. In this election, more than any other in the past 30 years, the American people are truly responsible for doing something that can improve their lives for many years to come. If we can energize and mobilize a sufficient number of citizens to vote against all Democrats and all Republicans in the primary elections, we would certainly get the attention of these lawmakers and send a very loud populist message that immediate drastic action is needed if they want to stay in office.
In the general elections, we need to recognize that candidates from the two major parties are still part of the problem. We should vote to reject all of the Democrats and Republicans running for Congress this year. However, there may be some rare situations when one candidate, regardless of how bad he or she may be, might still be strongly preferable to any available alternative. In such circumstances, the voter should feel to vote his or her own conscience, as the lesser of two evils.
This process should also be applied at the state level (especially the governor's position), because the states are often the breeding grounds for future national politicians, and governors frequently appoint replacement representatives whenever a mid-term vacancy occurs.
In both elections, we need to get our message across that we aren't willing to settle for the status quo; we aren't going to settle for less than our forefathers ordained; and we aren't going to accept anything less than the American Dream. Either they return our democracy to us or we will turn them out of office.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

How Not to Get Money Out of Politics

Getting Money Out of Politics. There has been considerable discussion surrounding the corrupting influence of money in politics. Several sources have developed proposed Constitutional amendments to minimize the detrimental effect of political contributions and favors. You will find below a list of some proposed amendments excerpted from the Idiot’s Guide to the Amendments.. Some of these are already before Congress. Others are drafts by individuals or groups, conveying what they consider to be items that they feel should be included in any formal amendment.
Nothing Is Perfect. Unfortunately, virtually all of these proposals have major problems. Several of them limit their amendments to the issue of corporate personhood and/or specifying that money is not speech, and nothing else.. Others fail to address these issues at all. Only a few of them go beyond these concepts to address getting special interest money out of politics altogether, and not just out of our elections.
Some are vague or confusing in their terminology. Almost all of them rely on Congress to implement the legislation for campaign finance reform, in spite of the fact that it is the very members of Congress that are heavily complicit in this abuse of power in our government.
Piecemeal Approach Likely to Fail. My personal feeling is that most of these proposals reflect at best a piecemeal approach and only a first step toward cleaning up the mess we have in Washington. Almost everything of any true significance that we need to do will require at least one Constitutional amendment. However, we cannot go to the people piecemeal with these important items. We need to put together a total reform package in only one or two amendments, while, at the same time, keeping them simple and straightforward, so that average citizens can read and understand them, and who will back their passage by their federal and state legislators.
Each title below is also a link to the text of that proposed amendment. I don't expect you to read every one. However, if you should choose to read only one, I suggest that it be Wolf PAC Amendments (#28 and #29). Taken together, they appear to me to be the most comprehensive package, and they are very clear and easy to comprehend. Here are brief descriptions of thirteen proposed efforts to cure the ills of our present system.

OCCUPIED Amendment

Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch from Florida introduced this amendment in the House. It is a companion bill to the Saving American Democracy Amendment in the Senate. It only partly addresses the Citizen's United ruling by stating essentially that only non-profit corporations established for business purposes are not people. It fails to address the issue of money as speech, government financing of federal elections, or other reforms.

Saving American Democracy Amendment

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont introduced an amendment in the Senate that is a companion bill to and essentially the same as the OCCUPIED Amendment in the House.

Get Money Out Amendment

This amendment was proposed by the Get Money Out organization, which was started by MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan. Get Money Out merged with the United Republic group in late 2011. Its content is somewhat similar to the OCCUPIED and Saving American Democracy amendments above. However, it is the only amendment that calls for election day to be a federal holiday.

Lessig Amendment

This amendment was proposed by Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig, who also founded the Rootstrikers organization. That group merged with the United Republic organization in late 2011. It provides for government funding of federal elections, a limit of $100 for “non-anonymized" contributions, but does not address any limits for “ anonymized” contributions. It would place limits on independent political expenditures within 90 days of an election, It indirectly addresses corporate personhood by specifying that non-natural persons do not have inalienable rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution. It does not address the “money is speech” issue.

Wolf PAC Amendments (#28 and #29)

These amendments were proposed by Wolf PAC, a group started by progressive TV and radio host Cenk Uygur. Because I think this is the best of the amendments submitted to date, I am including their entire text below. The sites also have descriptive explanations of each section at their respective sites, if you want more information.
Section 1. For all constitutional and legal purposes, entities created by operation of law are not persons, and do not have the rights of people.
Section 2. No entity not a person, and no people other than citizens, shall contribute to any political purpose. All contributions to political purpose shall be made public, with the name of the contributor and amount and nature of the contribution, and the name of the recipient.
Section 3. The Congress shall have power to enforce the provisions of this article by appropriate legislation.
Section 1. Only U.S. citizens shall be allowed to contribute to a candidate for public office, or to contribute money to an organization engaged in influencing the outcome of an election or legislation, or to contribute money on behalf of or opposed to any type of said candidates and elected officials, organization, or legislation.
Section 2. No candidate for any elected office shall be permitted to receive more than sixteen times the federal hourly minimum wage, in contributions of any form, excluding volunteer hours, for any purpose, from any singular citizen of the United States of America during the same election cycle; all contributions must be fully disclosed in amount and source.
Section 3. No appointee or nominee to, or holder of, any office of any government body shall accept gifts or compensation to their personal accounts save their duly awarded salary from said government body; they may receive campaign contributions in a separate campaign account subject to disclosure.
Section 4. All campaign expenditures shall be comprised entirely of campaign contributions. Candidates as private citizens may contribute to their campaigns within the limits and restrictions of this amendment and shall be permitted use of personal forms of transportation.
Section 5: All campaign contributions, to candidates or to organizations engaged in influencing the outcome of an election, must be raised from the constituents of the elected office in question.
Section 6. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Udall Amendment

Democratic Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, along with eight other Democratic Senators (Messrs. Bennet, Harkin, Durbin, Schumer, Merkley, Whitehouse, Begich, and Mrs. Shaheen) introduced this amendment. It is so full of holes that it is virtually a worthless sham. It doesn't address the issue of corporate personhood or the use of money as speech. It adds essentially nothing toward getting money out of politics, except for what Congress might legislate, and we all know how effective they have been in the past and will continue to be in the future..

The People's Right's Amendment

Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) introduced the amendment with the support of Free Speech for People, a non-profit group that aims to end corporate personhood. This amendment would reverse the Citizen's United decision by the Supreme Court, but nothing else.

Simmons Amendment

Hip-hop artist Simmons announced his support for an amendment that would establish public funding of federal political campaigns and would prohibit any political contributions from any source. It gives Congress the authority to design and enforce the public funding system. However, it does not address the issue of corporate personhood issue or concept that money is speech. It does, however, specifically preclude candidates from using their own money for their campaigns.

Edwards Amendment

Introduced by Representative Donna Edwards (D-Md.), this feeble and useless proposal has very little merit. It does not directly address corporate personhood or the concept of money as speech. It refers to 'contributions,' but doesn't define them (financial, in kind, volunteerism, etc.). Here is the entire content of her vague amendment:
Section 1. Nothing in this Constitution shall prohibit Congress and the States from imposing content-neutral regulations and restrictions on the expenditure of funds for political activity by any corporation, limited liability company, or other corporate entity, including but not limited to contributions in support of, or in opposition to, a candidate for public office.t:
Section 2.  Nothing contained in this Article shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.

Schrader Amendment

Democratic Representative Kurt Schrader from Oregon introduced this amendment. It doesn't directly address the corporate personhood issue and is silent on the issue of money as speech. It also does not provide for publicly financed campaigns. Other than those issues, I think this is one of the better amendments.

Kaptur Amendment

Introduced by Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), this is another feeble and useless proposal that has very little merit. Here is the entire content of her amendment:
Section 1. Congress shall have power to set limits on the amount of contributions that may be accepted by, and the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to, a candidate for nomination for election to, or for election to, Federal office.
Section 2. A State shall have power to set limits on the amount of contributions that may be accepted by, and the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to, a candidate for nomination for election to, or for election to, State or local office.
Section 2.Congress shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation..
No reference to corporate personhood. No reference to money as free speech. No mention of public campaign financing. Lots of other things missing. She does specifically address both primary and general elections, something one of the others do.
A progressive group known as Move to Amend has proposed an amendment that would overturn Citizen's United by affirming that corporations are not people, specifically stating that money is not free speech, approving legislative controls over campaign spending, and prohibiting candidate's from using their own money as campaign resources. It does not, however, address public financing of federal campaigns. Otherwise, it is pretty good.

Renew Democracy Amendment

A grassroots organization known as Renew Democracy has proposed amendment that is totally unstructured and very confusing. It does not directly address the corporate personhood issue or the “money is speech” issue. It does not recommend public financing of campaigns as a means of getting money out of politics. It uses some vague and undefined phrases, as you will see in the text below, which is the entire text of the amendment.
The Renew Democracy Amendment
The right of the individual qualified citizen voter to participate in and directly elect all candidates by popular vote in all pertinent local, state, and federal elections shall not be questioned and the right to vote is limited to individuals. The right to contribute to political campaigns and political parties is held solely by individual citizens. Political campaign and political party contributions shall not exceed an amount reasonably affordable by the average American. The rights of all groups, associations and organizations to other political speech may be regulated by Congress but only as to volume and not content and only to protect the right of the individual voter’s voice to be heard.
Summary. There you have it – the collective effort of thirteen groups, all seemingly focused on improving our corrupt political system. Some are better focused than others, and some seem to be blind to the true nature of the problems that beset us and how to solve them. I think that somewhere among them are the seeds of political, and not just electoral, reform.
Conclusion. It will be a difficult job to get such an amendment through Congress, but it must be done. It will be difficult to get 38 of our 50 states to ratify such an amendment, but it must be done. The survival of our democracy is at stake. For the sake of our children and all who come after them, it must be done.