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U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern is launching a campaign in Congress to pass constitutional amendments limiting political spending by corporations and special interests in an attempt to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision.

“It’s a long shot,” McGovern, who represents the 2nd District, told The Republican/MassLive.com. “But we need to begin the movement so at a minimum this issue is being discussed.”

On Tuesday, McGovern introduced two constitutional amendments. One, referred to as a “People’s Rights Amendment,” would clarify that the rights given to people by the Constitution apply only to a “natural person,” not a corporation. The effect would be to overturn the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which found that corporations have the same free speech rights as people – and are therefore are allowed to make unlimited political expenditures as a form of “political speech.”

The second amendment would allow both Congress and the states to pass laws limiting political fundraising and spending. That amendment would overturn a 1976 U.S. Supreme Court case, Buckley v. Valeo, which barred the state or federal governments from imposing spending limits on campaigns.

jimmcgovern2McGovern said he introduced the amendments because he believes there is too much money in politics. “The amount of money members of Congress and even presidential candidates have to raise and spend is obscene,” McGovern said. “Money is corrupting the political process.”

When McGovern first ran for Congress in 1996, he spent $800,000. He has not faced a competitive election since 1998, and because of that has spent less than $1.2 million in every race but one since then. McGovern said it seems “just plain wrong” that elected officials have to raise millions of dollars to run for a congressional seat.

For a constitutional amendment to be adopted, it must be approved by two-thirds of the House and Senate and ratified by three-fourths of the states. McGovern acknowledged that passage would be difficult. He said he supports efforts in Congress to require public disclosure of corporate political spending – something that can be done through legislation, rather than a constitutional amendment.

But McGovern said he wants to start a discussion. “I’m not saying I’ve got all the answers,” he said. “But we ought to have debate and discussion in this country about the growing influence of money and growing influence of corporations in our political system….I’d rather have members spending more time listening to constituents, deliberating policy rather than going to a political campaign office and spending a day dialing for dollars.”

So far, the amendment on campaign finance regulation has nine co-sponsors, all Democrats, including Massachusetts Rep. Michael Capuano, who represents the 7th District, Maine Reps. Michael Michaud and Chellie Pingree, and New Hampshire Rep. Carol Shea-Porter. The amendment overturning Citizens United has eight co-sponsors, including Capuano and Pingree. One Republican – Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina – is a co-sponsor.

McGovern will hold a press conference on Thursday in Boston with Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, State Sen. Jamie Eldridge of Acton, State Reps. Marty Walz of Boston and Cory Atkins of Concord, and others to talk about national and state efforts to overturn the Citizens United decision. John Bonifaz, co-founder of the group Free Speech for People, which opposes Citizens United, will appear with McGovern in Boston and at similar events in Worcester on Thursday and Northampton on Friday.

McGovern and Bonifaz will hold a panel discussion on Friday at 3 p.m. at Forbes Library in Northampton. Attendees will include Tim Carpenter of Progressive Democrats of America and Jackie Wolf, the chairwoman of the League of Women Voters.

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