SAINT PAUL, MN – State Senator Melisa Franzen, DFL-Edina, introduces a bipartisan resolution applying to Congress for a limited national convention to propose a constitutional amendment to restore balance and integrity to our elections. (SF 1544)
Eight years ago, the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. FEC defined the modern federal campaign finance system. The Citizens United ruling gave corporations and unions the green light to spend unlimited money on ads and other political tools. Contributions to political action committees (PACs) had previously been limited to $5,000 per person per year, but now those contributions are going through new vehicles such as “super PACs” that exert a growing influence on local, state and federal political elections. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into these super PACs, allowing a relatively small group of wealthy individuals and corporations to exert an outsized influence. According to a report in 2014 by the Brennan Center for Justice, of the $1 billion spent in federal elections by super PACs since 2010, nearly 60 percent came from just 195 individuals and their spouses.
When our elected officials must spend up to 70 percent of their time raising money, they are no longer able to do the work of the people, as they were sent to Washington D.C. to do. Independent studies, such as one conducted by Professors Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, have confirmed that public opinion holds “only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” This same research identified a measurable correlation between what those who could afford lobbyists wanted, and what laws Congress ultimately passed.
The solution is to add a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that will ensure the integrity of our elections and establish a government accountable to the people. Article V of the United States Constitution requires Congress to call a national convention for proposing amendments to the federal Constitution with two-thirds of legislative states in attendance. Senator Franzen’s resolution will send delegates to the convention from Minnesota that will be comprised equally of individuals currently elected to state and local office, or be selected by election, in each Congressional district for the purpose of serving as delegates.
“The framers of the US Constitution intended that the Congress of the United States of America should be ‘dependent on the people alone.’ That dependency has evolved over time,” said Senator Franzen. “Americans across the political spectrum agree that elections in the US should be free from the disproportional influence of special interests and fair enough that any citizen can be elected into office.”