The constitutional amendment would ban corporate political spending, directly limit the amounts of money that political donors can contribute or spend, require Congress to enact public campaign financing or lose their salaries, and empower states to develop their own campaign finance limits while overturning Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United that have licensed corporations and wealthy individuals to dominate our elections.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 22, 2023) – Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts today introduced the Free and Fair Elections Amendment. The constitutional amendment would free our elections from the corrupting influence of unlimited political spending by global corporations and the mega-wealthy, enabling meaningful democratic participation of all citizens.  The amendment is “self-executing”–once ratified into the Constitution, it will not depend on the whims of Congress to enact campaign finance legislation. Instead, the amendment itself would directly bar corporations from spending money to influence federal elections, set sharp limits on federal campaign contributions and spending (including a $1000 limit on any individual’s total aggregate spending in all federal elections), require Congress to develop a system of public campaign financing for federal candidates or else lose their salaries, and allow states to set reasonable limits on campaign contributions and spending in state and local elections. Unlike other amendments that would merely allow Congress or the states to pass campaign finance legislation, for federal elections the Free and Fair Elections Amendment directly imposes these key elements in the amendment itself without any further action from Congress.

The amendment would overturn Citizens United, Buckley v. Valeo, and other Supreme Court rulings which have blocked Congress, states, and local governments from protecting our democracy and promoted growing inequality. In Buckley, the Court held that limits on contributions to candidates can only be justified if they prevent “corruption,” and individuals (including self-funded candidates) have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections. In Citizens United, the Court extended that same right to corporations, reversing decades of campaign finance law. A subsequent case decided by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, SpeechNow v. FEC, relied on this ruling in a decision that led to the creation of super PACs. Since then, corporations and wealthy donors have spent untold billions of dollars on elections through direct contributions, super PACs, and other independent expenditures. Campaign spending records are shattered year after year, with the 2022 midterm elections seeing $16.7 billion in contributions.

“Our system is broken. Big money and corporate interests dominate U.S. elections. Billionaire corporations, super PACs, and the ultra-wealthy use their money to buy access and influence at the expense of the average voter–regardless of political party,” said McGovern. “This historic amendment to our Constitution is long overdue and critically necessary for protecting our democracy.”

The text of the amendment was developed by Free Speech For People, a nonpartisan nonprofit legal advocacy organization dedicated to defending the Constitution and fulfilling the promise of democracy and political equality for all.

“We applaud Congressman McGovern for his outstanding leadership in championing this constitutional amendment,” said John Bonifaz, Co-Founder and President of Free Speech For People. “Since the day of our founding when the Supreme Court issued its disastrous Citizens United ruling, Free Speech For People has served as a catalyzing force in the country calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn that ruling and reclaim our democracy. We have been honored to partner with Congressman McGovern in that fight. Today, with the introduction of the Free and Fair Elections Amendment, Congressman McGovern shows once again that he is ready to lead in standing up for our democracy. Big money interests continue to drown out the voices of everyday Americans, and this amendment will end that. By passing the Free and Fair Elections Amendment, we will be one step closer to a democracy that is truly by and for the people.”

Congressman McGovern has also long championed the People’s Rights Amendment, which would end the fiction of corporations being treated as people with constitutional rights. Free Speech For People served as the lead drafters of that amendment as well.

“The Supreme Court’s modern campaign finance jurisprudence, epitomized by Citizens United, boils down to two simplistic and erroneous slogans: money is speech and corporations are people,” said Ben Clements, Free Speech For People’s Chairman and Senior Legal Advisor.  “Under this regime, our elections – and by extension our government – are now controlled by a tiny minority of the extremely wealthy and the global corporations that they invest in. It is time to end this misguided experiment and restore our democracy to the people and for the people, by enacting the Free and Fair Elections Amendment.”

For more information on the Free and Fair Elections Amendment, click here.