Some of you may have participated in a recent LWVUS webinar on “Understanding the Dangers of a Constitutional Convention” on May 2, or may have received emails or phone calls from members of We The People Massachusetts. Like many of us, We the People Massachusetts is interested in fixing the problem of money in elections, and while we agree on the problem, we differ on the tactics.
The We the People Act, S.2243, currently in the Senate Rules Committee, is a resolution asking Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment that would affirm that (a) the rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons, i.e. human individuals, only and (b) Congress and the states shall place limits on political contributions and expenditures to ensure that all citizens have access to the political process, and the spending of money to influence elections is not protected free speech under the First Amendment. If Congress fails to act after six months, then the resolution becomes a call for an Article V Amendment Convention to amend the Constitution.
Members of the League of Women Voters participated in a national study two years ago, which resulted in two positions being adopted at the June 2016 convention. One position relates to Constitutional Amendments, and the other relates to Conventions. The Conventions position outlines the conditions that should be in place if a convention were to be called. Additionally, the LWVUS Board has affirmed in the past, and LWVUS confirmed for us again, that they do not believe that any of the proposals currently being discussed, including the proposed language in the We The People resolution, could be supported by the League as they currently exist. The best language about this is in a statement from April 2013, which says that the League continues to evaluate proposals for a constitutional amendment to fix Citizens United or to address other money in elections issues but there is not yet a proposal that it supports. LWVUS continues to address money in elections/politics through the legislative, regulatory and administrative channels.
We will continue to stay in touch with LWVUS about this issue, and let you know if anything changes that would permit Leagues to work on this issue. As of now, LWVMA is not supporting S. 2243 in the state legislature and local Leagues also should not support that resolution. Individual League members are free to work on it, but not in the name of the League.