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What is the People's Rights Amendment?

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Quick Answer

The People's Rights Amendment, introduced by U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern, limits the Constitution's protections, especially its First Amendment protections, only to natural persons and not to corporations. It is a response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in "Citizen's United v. FEC" that prohibits the government from limiting campaign expenditures by individuals, including corporations.

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In 2008, Citizen's United, a conservative advocacy group, wanted to air a film critical of Hillary Clinton, including advertising during television broadcasts. These advertisements were in violation of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, commonly known as the McCain-Feingold Act after its principal sponsors. Citizen's United sued to assert its right to air the film and advertisements, and the Supreme Court eventually agreed, effectively overturning large portions of the law and rendering much corporate electioneering spending as legally protected speech.

McGovern and other critics of the Citizens United decision criticize the conflation of corporations and individuals, arguing that the authors of the Constitution would never have considered corporations as legal people for the purposes of First Amendment freedoms. He and other critics wish to return or grant to Congress the right to distinguish between individuals and corporations for the purposes of campaign spending and other speech, thereby enabling Congress to remove some or all of the influence of corporate money in elections.

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