Illinois third state to call for constitutional convention to overturn ‘Citizens United’

By Brandon Reid
Senior Assistant Editor

Illinois has become the third state in the nation to call for a constitutional convention to amend campaign finance law to overturn the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling.

The Illinois House of Representatives voted 74-40 (with six not reporting) in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 42 (SJR 42) Dec. 3.

Locally, State Reps. Litesa Wallace, D-Rockford, and Robert W. Pritchard, R-Sycamore, voted in favor of the measure. State Reps. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford; Tom Demmer, R-Rochelle; and Brian W. Stewart, R-Freeport, voted against SJR 42. State Rep. John Cabello, R-Loves Park, did not register a vote on the matter. Pritchard was the only Republican to vote in favor of the resolution in the House vote. View the full roll call and find other details on the resolution at http://openstates.org/il/bills/98th/SJR42/.

With SJR 42’s passage, Illinois joins California and Vermont as states calling for a constitutional convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution for the purpose of amending the Constitution. Similar measures are also pending in Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Texas.

A constitutional convention can only be conducted after two-thirds of state legislatures — or 34 of 50 — call for such a convention. None of the 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution has been proposed by constitutional convention.

Amendments to the Constitution may also be proposed by Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. This is the process used for each of the current 27 amendments.

SJR 42 cites the United States Supreme Court’s Jan. 21, 2010, ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission as the main reason for the convention. The Citizens United ruling found that, contrary to longstanding precedents, corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited amounts of money to promote or defeat candidates.

Coming on the heels of Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruled April 2, 2014, in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission that putting a limit on the amount of biennial financial contributions individuals can make to a national party and federal candidate committees is unconstitutional. Prior to the ruling, the limit an individual could contribute every two years to a federal candidate was $123,200.

Supporters of the effort to convene a constitutional convention have speculated that amending the Constitution may be more manageable through a convention rather than waiting for U.S. representatives and U.S. senators to change campaign finance rules on their own — rules many of them benefit from.

Whether created through a constitutional convention or a majority vote in Congress, a proposed amendment becomes part of the Constitution as soon as it is ratified by three-fourths of the states, or 38 of 50 states.

The last amendment to the Constitution, the 27th Amendment, was ratified May 7, 1992. That amendment delays laws affecting Congressional salary from taking effect until after the next election of representatives. Ratification of the 27th Amendment, which was first submitted Sept. 25, 1789, took 202 years, seven months and 12 days.

SJR 42 passed the Illinois Senate April 9 by a vote of 37-15. State Sen. Christine Radogno, R-Lamont, was the only Republican to vote in favor of the resolution in the Senate. Locally, State Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, voted for the measure, while State Sens. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, and Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, voted against it.

The effort to amend the U.S. Constitution via constitutional convention is being spearheaded by political action committee Wolf PAC. Formed in 2011 and announced at an Occupy Wall Street rally in New York City by The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur, Wolf PAC’s goal is to end “corporate personhood and publicly financing all elections in our country.” Click here to view a report by The Young Turks about Illinois’ passage of SJR 42.

Posted Dec. 4, 2014

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