In 2010, the corporations and ultra-rich Americans who seek to influence the country’s political system with their wealth were granted a major victory by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC. In this case, the Court ruled that corporations and wealthy individuals could make unlimited contributions to independent political groups, such as PACs, and that government regulations preventing them from doing so violated the First Amendment’s free-speech clause. According to Sean Siperstein, a legal fellow at the public interest group Public Citizen, the Citizens United ruling “opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate spending in our elections.”
The contributions that corporations and the wealthy make to these independent political groups, which often run advertisements directly supporting or opposing specific candidates, are some of the greatest sources of corruption in our government today. The Supreme Court’s decision to equate money with speech and to grant corporations the same rights as individuals makes stopping this corruption even more difficult.
There are, however, a number of groups that seek to eliminate the concept of corporate personhood through the passage of an amendment to the US Constitution that would negate the Citizens United ruling. One of these groups, Wolf-PAC, was founded by Cenk Uygur, host of the online news show The Young Turks. Launched in 2002, The Young Turks claims to be “the largest online news show in the world,” with over 425,000 subscribers and over 850 million video views on YouTube. In addition, Uygur hosts a television show, also called The Young Turks, on Current TV.
Uygur established Wolf-PAC with the goal of passing “a much needed 28th Amendment to our Constitution which would end corporate personhood and publicly finance all elections in our country.” Uygur’s plan is to persuade 34 state legislatures to call on Congress to hold a Constitutional Convention, the first since the original Constitution was drafted.
Ordinarily, Constitutional amendments are proposed and voted on by Congress, but Wolf-PAC believes that “we can no longer count on our federal government to do what is in the best interest of the American people” because of the influence of corporate money in federal elections. At the convention, delegates would propose a new constitutional amendment eliminating corporate personhood, and the amendment would then require ratification by 38 state legislatures. This process would depend entirely on action at the state level and bypass Congress entirely.
Although Uygur’s goal may seem lofty and perhaps unattainable, Wolf-PAC has already made significant inroads in establishing support among state legislatures for a Constitutional Convention. The interactive map that Wolf-PAC displays on their website shows that dozens of state legislators from around the country strongly support the organization’s proposed amendment and their strategy.
Uygur’s passion for reducing the role of money in politics has inspired thousands of volunteers across the country to get involved in Wolf-PAC’s effort. Like Uygur, these activists believe that the passage of an amendment eliminating corporate personhood is essential to ensuring that the American government works in the best interest of citizens, not corporations.