The people can do what Congress will not

By Sven Hanson / Aug 12, 2019

The only solution to the campaign finance disaster we face is amending the U.S. Constitution via a states convention as provided in Article V of the U.S. Constitution. We will do this because we have to.

There is rarely a subject today that the country agrees on. But I can safely say that you believe at least one of: 1) our election campaign finance system is broken, 2) the people have little control over elections, 3) elections are controlled by those having money and 4) there is too much money in politics.

I know this because in the many national surveys on the subject, between 80 and 95 percent of the people agree with you. This is true regardless of age, race, gender or political party. There is no doubt that if we do not force a fundamental change in our elections, we will not have a government that represents us.

Despite overwhelming support for campaign finance reform, the U.S. Congress has long refused to take any action. It does not take a PhD in political science from the University of Florida to know why. It is not because a remedy is not available.

Fortunately, a remedy is provided by the U.S. Constitution, which in Article V says that when Congress fails to act, the people can directly address campaign finance through a states convention. There is a movement in the United States to do exactly that. We are Americans — fixing things is what we do.

To some, the idea of amending the U.S. Constitution may appear to be a drastic and risky remedy. Some would propose instead new state or federal laws or regulations. However, all prior meaningful campaign regulation laws have been struck down or otherwise thwarted on constitutional grounds.

An amendment of the U.S. Constitution is the only solution because the U.S. Supreme Court has effectively said that the U.S. Constitution does not allow for control of campaign spending. Even retired U.S. Supreme Court justices have agreed that an amendment is possible and needed for this purpose.

Some say that the prospect of amending the U.S. Constitution in this way risks all manner chaos and unforeseen events by bad actors. There is no basis for this fear.

The process for proposing and enacting an amendment is spelled out in the U.S. Constitution. Any proposed amendments from an Article V convention still requires ratification by three-fourths of the 50 states. No amendment can be enacted without final overwhelming support by the states themselves.

The first step is a request from at least two-thirds of the states to the U.S. Congress to hold a states convention to amend the U.S. Constitution for the limited purpose of addressing campaign finance. This process is not something entirely new and untested. In the past, Florida legislatures have adopted resolutions requesting Article V conventions to address issues such as a national balanced budget and elected office term limits.

In Florida, the request for an Article V convention addressing campaign finance is the “Free and Fair Elections” resolution that was filed last session in Tallahassee and will be filed again in the Florida Legislature this year. There is a team of citizens in Florida who will be traveling to Tallahassee during the session to ask your state representative and senators to support this resolution.

Wish them well. Or better yet, contact your state representative and senator and ask them to support the Free and Fair Elections resolution.

Sven Hanson lives in Gainesville.

The Gainesville Sun