New Jersey Hills Media Group

Lance, Frelinghuysen Called On To Back Amendment Against Citizen United

New Jersey Hills Media Group / Mount Olive Chronicle News — December 19, 2017

By PHIL GARBER, Managing Editor

Laura Knipmeyer has joined a battle that she claims has a goal that is nothing short of saving the American democratic process.

The Long Valley woman is part of a nationwide effort to win ratification of a 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. To say the effort is an uphill battle would be a huge understatement, to say the least.

But despite the odds, Knipmeyer said she will continue to press for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's 2010 landmark "Citizens United" ruling. Overturning the ruling and ending the flood of socalled "dark money" to the election process is critical for the health of the democracy, Knipmeyer said.

"Basically nothing is ever going to change unless we are able to return government to the control of the people and not corporations," said Knipmeyer, a retired pharmaceutical executive.

Knipmeyer said the Citizens United ruling cleared the way for corporations and other groups to make huge campaign contributions without identifying the donors.

"You have to make clear to the public who is giving the money," Knipmeyer said. "You have to know who is supporting the different points of view."

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission dealt with campaign finances and the regulation of political campaign spending by organizations. The Supreme Court held (5-4) that the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the government from restricting expenditures by nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions, political action committees and other associations.

Knipmeyer is a member of "American Promise," a non-partisan, national grass roots organization leading the drive for a 28th amendment.

American Promise was formed in January 2016 by Jeff Clements, the author of "Corporations Are Not People: Reclaiming Democracy From Big Money & Global Corporations." The stated goal of American Promise is "to empower, inspire, and organize Americans to win the cause of our time: the 28th Amendment. This historic reform will rebalance our politics and government by putting the rights of individual citizens and the interests of the nation before the privileges of concentrated money, corporations, unions, political parties and superPACs."

The Constitution provides that an amendment may be proposed either by the Congress with a twothirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a convention of the states called by Congress upon request by two-thirds of the state Legislatures. The proposed amendment would then have to be ratified by Legislatures or con- ventions in three fourths of the states.

Knipmeyer said she and three other members of the N.J chapter of American Promise met on Nov. 21 with Rep. Leonard Lance, R-7. They sought Lance's support of two pending Congressional bills, HJR 48 and HJR 31, which propose language for a constitutional aamendment. Lance did not offer support but said he would review the bills, Knipmeyer said.

"It was a very productive meeting," Knipmeyer said. "The issue wasn't on his radar screen. We asked him to take a look at the bills."

Lance said in a statement on Monday that "Legislative reform is much easier to achieve than amending the Constitution. Any new law, constitutional or statutory, must apply equally to labor unions as well as corporations."

In a 2014 survey by "New Jersey for the Overturn of Citizens United" Lance did not respond to five requests for comment at the time, offering "no response, no solutions offered."

In his response to the 2014 survey by "New Jersey for the Overturn of Citizens United," Frelinghuysen "showed reluctance to accept the existence of problem and had no interest in any solutions."

Frelinghuysen did not return a call for comment.

Across the country, 19 state legislatures including New Jersey and nearly 800 cities and towns have passed 28th Amendment resolutions with cross-partisan support. The New Jersey resolution was passed on Oct. 4, 2012, and expressed strong opposition to the Citizens United ruling and called on Congress to propose a constitutional amendment.

Knipmeyer became involved with American Promise after meeting Clements at a 2014 conference in Lexington, Ky. She said she soon read Clements' book and was astounded to learn about "the incredible amount of policy that is crafted with corporate money"

Knipmeyer said the drive for a constitutional amendment crosses political lines.

"It is so nice to be working on something where everyone benefits," she said.

The New Jersey branch of American Promise is based in Montclair. Several dozen statewide organizations support the proposed amendment including BlueWaveNJ, Coalition for Peace Action, American Federation of Teachers, New Jersey Citizen Action and the Sierra Club.

Among the members of the national board of American Promise is Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

"Five years after Citizens United, it is time to accept the historical gravity of our situation. It is time for Americans of all political viewpoints to come together to win the 28th Amendment — and to renew U.S. democracy," Goodwin said.

Another board member is Jim Leach, a former Republican member of Congress from Iowa and chairman of the National Endowment For the Humanities.

"Citizens United has genetically altered our democratic DNA, pushing American politics in an oligarchic, corporatist direction. The Constitution begins "We the people" not "We the corporations,"" Leach said.

Constitutional amendments to overrule the Supreme Court have passed six times in the nation's history. The last amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1992. It barred members of Congress from giving themselves raises but allowed sitting members to vote for raises for members of Congress not yet elected.

Frelinghuysen's 11th Congressional District includes the Morris County towns of Boonton, Boonton Township, Butler, Chatham, Chatham Township, Denville, East Hanover, Florham Park, Hanover, Harding, Jefferson Township, Kinnelon, Lincoln Park, Madison, Mendham, Mendham Township, Montville, Morris Plains, Morris Township, Morristown, Mountain Lakes, Parsippany-Troy Hills, Pequannock, Randolph Township, Riverdale, Rockaway, Rockaway Township and Victory Gardens.

Lance's 7th Congressional District includes the Chesters, Mount Olive and Washington Township, Dover, Long Hill Township, Mine Hill Township, Mount Arlington, Netcong, Roxbury Township and Wharton.

It also includes all of Hunterdon County and the Somerset County municipalities of Bedminster Township, Bernards Township, Bernardsville, Branchburg Township, Bridgewater Township, Far Hills, Green Brook Township, Hillsborough Township, Millstone, Montgomery Township, North Plainfield, Peapack-Gladstone, Raritan, Rocky Hill, Somerville, Warren Township and Watchung, as well as several municipalities in Union County, including Berkeley Heights and New Providence.

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