Section by Section Explanation of CFR28's Proposed Constitutional Amendment for Campaign Finance Reform

Proposal Highlights

The single purpose of this proposal is to prevent anyone from helping candidates with enough money to win special favors. But more than a few simple words are required to achieve this if we are to preserve our First Amendment rights.

 

If limiting contributions directly to candidates is all of what is required, Section 1 of this proposal would be sufficient. But limiting how much money can be independently used to help candidates is a challenge. This proposal overcomes this challenge by explicitly protecting speech while targeting the most effective platform for delivering speech that money can buy; advertising. And with the way advertising is defined (in subsection 2.3), the limits on it are clearly enforceable without threatening any other sources of information and opinions about candidates.

 

  • Only citizens can contribute to candidates, they are limited to giving no more than $445, which will adjust with inflation, and they can contribute only to candidates who are running to represent them.

 

  • Additional public financing is allowed, but not required.

 

  • Independent advertising is prohibited unless it is sponsored by a citizen for less than the $445 limit. Advertising is defined as messages intended for people who do not expect or want to see them without regard to source or content.

 

  • Any person or organization can otherwise say anything they want about candidates using any media. They must however, identify themselves if they use media to advocate for or against candidates.

Breakdown of Proposal

Purpose of Proposed Text

Proposed Text

Congress will have to set a limit on how much people can give to candidates. Only citizens will be able to make those contributions and they can only give to candidates they are allowed to vote for. Contributions are like votes; each of us is limited in who we can vote for and how many votes we can give.

 

The limit that anyone, rich or poor, can give to candidates would be about $445 per candidate for each election if this were the law today. But the limit will automatically adjust with inflation.

 

Section 1  Every second year, Congress shall establish a single limit on the amount of wealth each citizen may contribute or use to aid in the election of candidates seeking to represent the citizen in any government office.  That limit shall not exceed one percent of the average annual income of all citizens of the United States.

Contributions of the $445 can be made during a primary, then again during the general election, run-off and/or recall elections.

2.1  The limit on citizen’s aid to candidates shall apply to each candidate for each voting event.

In-kind help to a candidate (other than voluntary labor; see Section 2.4) is the same as a contribution. So if someone provides free printing of candidate brochures for example, the cost of the printing is counted as a contribution.

2.2  The limit shall cumulatively apply to all contributions directly to a candidate’s campaign organization and use of any resources to supplement or offset the cost of a candidate’s campaign.

Independent advertising (above the $445 limit) is prohibited. However, candidates can still advertise and all other speech about candidates is allowed for every person and organization.

 

To avoid having a message labeled “advertising”, people must be given an opportunity to avoid hearing it. Regular news, opinion and political satire shows would not have to make any special effort to meet this requirement; the average person should know what to expect when they tune-in.

 

A movie or half-hour TV show financed by a candidate’s supporters could also meet this requirement if it is scheduled and publicized for what it is. But that publicity (for the movie or show) cannot contain any excerpts about the candidates.

 

Including "all of the costs of producing" a message will prevent one person/group from creating an expensive video (for example) for reuse by individuals who pay only for airing the video.

2.3  The limit shall apply to all the costs of producing and distributing messages about candidates that are designed for audiences to witness unintentionally or without seeking the messages.  No other messages about candidates shall be limited by this amendment.

People can volunteer their time to help a campaign as much as they want even if they have contributed to a candidate up to the limit.

2.4  The limit shall not apply to voluntary and uncompensated individual labor to aid in the election of a candidate.

We can implement public financing if we decide that lawful contributions are not enough to fund campaigns.

2.5  The limit shall not apply to resources granted to candidates’ campaign organizations through programs established by local, state or federal law that are not designed to favor candidates based upon political party affiliation, beliefs or prior experience. Such programs may distribute resources through publicly funded vouchers of equal size given by citizens to candidates seeking to represent the citizen or may establish funding qualification conditions that consider candidate's viability through favorable petitions of registered voters and matching contributions.

Contributions have to be reported, with tax returns for example, but contributors can remain publicly anonymous since the size of contributions will not be enough to buy much influence. Anonymous contributions are like anonymous votes.

3.1  Citizens and campaign organizations shall report to a governing federal agency all contributions to candidates that are not voluntary and uncompensated individual labor, but the identities of lawful providers of the aid shall not be publicized by the governing body or candidate’s campaign organization without consent of the provider.

No one can get around the contribution limit by giving money to other people so they will make indirect contributions. And no one can make someone else contribute or punish them for doing so. For example, contributions to candidates cannot be a requirement before joining a labor union or to get a job promotion.

3.2  Neither individuals nor entities may subsidize or interfere with citizen choices regarding the amount of wealth or labor that citizens contribute or use to promote or oppose the election of candidates.

Candidates cannot use campaign media that are funded outside of legal contributions to supplement their campaign advertisements.

3.3  Neither candidates, nor campaign organizations nor political parties may solicit other entities to independently sponsor media that are designed for the purpose of favoring or opposing candidates or supplement the candidate's campaign media with independent media products that are designed or funded for the purpose of favoring or opposing candidates.

People and organizations that make movies and TV shows, etc. at a cost greater than the limit ($445) to help candidates must reveal who they are and warn people that the media contains opinions about candidates.

3.4  All independent media costing more than the limit established in Section 1 that is designed for the purpose of favoring or opposing candidates, and all advertisements promoting or directing citizens to such media, must prominently and clearly provide for simple and transparent access to the identities of all of the media sponsors, and give audiences a reasonable expectation that opinions or information about candidates will be a part of the media message.

All other sources of contributions and advertising are dissallowed thus closing the door on independent advertising from any source other than campaigns and citizens, which must be funded within the limit. It also prevents predictable and unpredictable loopholes like contributions to candidates from non-citizens and foreign governments, and wealthy candidates funding their own campaigns, etc.

Section 4  No wealth or assets other than those authorized by this Amendment may be contributed to candidates’ campaigns, or be used to supplement or offset the costs of candidates' campaigns. Candidates may use only the wealth and assets authorized by this Amendment to fund the cost of campaigning and advertising for election.

Amendment XXVIII.pdf
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CFR Illustration.pdf
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