Frequently Asked Questions

Clarifying Questions and Answers

  • Q:   I’ve heard about the group We the People/Massachusetts. How does the charter of American Promise and our Massachusetts Ballot Campaign, People Govern, Not Money, differ from their efforts?

    We the People Massachusetts (WTPMA) is an all volunteer organization in MA and is one of several groups working toward passage of a 28th amendment to overturn Citizens United v. FEC. WtPMA has been pursuing various strategies over several years to promote the 28th Amendment in Massachusetts and has seven local chapters.

    American Promise works nationally to support and encourage all groups that have a desire to overturn the Citizens United ruling with a 28th amendment, since we believe that our voices are stronger and have greater impact and influence if we support each other’s endeavors.

    We the People MA has put advisory questions for the amendment on district ballots, lobbied the MA Congressional delegation and is now also supporting state legislation. With the national organization Wolf-PAC, WtPMA has drafted and submitted a bill in the Massachusetts legislature called the “We the People Act,” (H. 1926, S. 379), which would direct our state legislature to call on the U.S. Congress to propose an amendment to the Constitution affirming that:

    1. the rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons, i.e., human individuals only, and
    2. the spending of money to influence elections is not protected free speech under the First Amendment.

    Article V of the U.S. Constitution, spells out two ways of proposing a constitutional amendment: a 2/3 vote by Congress, or a convention called by 2/3 of the states. The We the People Act gives Congress six months to propose a two-part amendment as described in the bill. If Congress fails to act, the bill calls for Massachusetts to join the other five states (VT, CA, IL, NJ, and RI) that have already called for limited topic Article V amendment convention to propose an amendment to overturn Citizens United.

    We the People MA is also currently working to line up co-sponsors for a proposal in Congress called the We the People Amendment (H.J.R.48) that would propose the “two plank” amendment as described above. We the People MA is also helping People Govern, Not Money signature drive and statewide ballot question.

    People Govern, Not Money does not direct the use of either approach spelled out in Article V. Instead, it calls for a 2018 ballot initiative to allow the voters of Massachusetts to direct the legislature to form a “Citizens Commission.” This commission will study the issue, take testimony, inform the public, and develop a final report outlining Massachusetts’ support for a 28th Amendment to be provided to the Massachusetts legislature, the U.S. Congress, and the President of the United States. The commission will bring greater attention and visibility to the impact of big money on our democracy, and highlight the need for the 28th Amendment.

    Our American Promise approach is to encourage all activities that will move us closer to a 28th amendment to overturn Citizens United v. FEC.

    Download this explanation in PDF format.

    For more information about “Article V” and the differing perspectives on the two approaches for enacting a Constitutional Amendment, read that section in this FAQ.

  • Q:  What is an “Article V Convention” and what is its purpose?

    In the U.S. Constitution, Article V is the section where the process of proposing and ratifying Constitutional Amendments is outlined. The relevant portion of Article V is reproduced here:

    The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress. […Continues]

    So, Article V says that if two thirds of both Houses agree (that is, 68 Senators and 290 Representatives), Congress can propose an Amendment, which must then be ratified by three fourths of the states (which is 38 states).

    However, there is another option: If two-thirds of the states (that is, 34 states) agree, they can bypass Congress and call for an “Amendment Convention” to propose an Amendment, which must then be ratified by at least 38 states before it can become law.

    In all our past 27 Amendments, there has never been a time when an “Amendment Convention” has occurred – it has never happened. We came closest in the 17th Amendment, which specified the direct election of senators. Prior to the 17th Amendment, senators were appointed by state legislatures. In this case, we were one state away from calling for an Amendment Convention when the Congress saw the “writing on the wall” and decided that they should draft the 17th Amendment rather than having it proposed without their involvement. Some groups today believe that having the prospect of an Amendment Convention provides necessary pressure on Congress to act on an Amendment that otherwise could be ignored and dismissed. Others believe that we should not waste any time waiting on Congress; instead we should proceed directly to calling for an Amendment Convention.

    However, because we have never experienced an Amendment Convention, some analysts fear that such a convention could get “out of control” and proposals run wild, ending up creating a “stew” of undesirable legislation. The advocates of an Amendment Convention counter that the language used to call the Convention can be specific, and restrict the discussion to the exclusive purpose of developing the Amendment, which in this case would be to describe corporate constitutional rights and affirm that political financial contributions are not protected free speech.

    This exclusive and focused language is what is used in the We the People Act proposed by We the People/MA. The assessment you make as an individual citizen about the consequences of an Amendment Convention is a personal one, and cannot be proved or disproved since we have never had such a convention to set a precedent. It is important to remember that no matter what the output of an Amendment Convention, the resulting proposal must still be ratified by at least 38 states for it to become law.

Download the FAQ in a PDF