During my time in High School, I participated in a club called Youth & Government (Y&G). It is sponsored by the Y and is a mock version of the United States Government emulated through state delegations. Every year there is a nationwide conference called the Conference on National Affairs (CONA) in which about 20 delegates are selected from each of the Y&G state programs. In total there are about 600 delegates at the conference. Each delegate is required to write a proposal that tackles an issue of national or international importance to the United States. In 2020 I was selected for a second consecutive year to represent Maryland to CONA. The previous year I wrote a proposal on solving the opioid epidemic, but the following year my proposal was instead an amendment to the United States Constitution to reform campaign finance.
Connor Kelly 2020 CONA Proposal
Author(s): Connor Kelly
Title: A proposal to make the 28th amendment to the constitution to fix campaign finance in the United States
Major Areas to be Affected:
Political campaigns, Political Action Committees
In the United States political system, money speaks louder than words. Special interest groups, big
corporations, and the ultra-wealthy hold more influence in public policy than politicians own constituents. After
Citizens United V. FEC (2010) the supreme court determined that money is free speech and restrictions on
donations to political campaigns is a violation of the first amendment. This precedent led to the creation of
Super PACs, political action committees with no donation or spending limits; the only catch is that the leaders
of the Super PAC can’t coordinate their spending with a candidate’s campaign. This sounds smart on paper but
in practicality, it has become legalized corruption. Wealthy individuals can drown out the voice of the people
by donating hundreds-of-millions of dollars to Super PACs to influence elections and effectively decide them.
Super PACs spent $1.6 billion on elections in 2016, up In effect this is legalized corruption. There is only one
rule for Super PACs: the heads of a Super PAC can not coordinate spending with the candidate’s campaign,
but this rule is always circumvented by a third-party coordinating with both the Super Pac and a candidates
campaign. This loophole allows for unlimited coordinated spending in elections.
Under the constitution, citizens are meant to be equal; every citizen has one vote, the same rights to protest
and free speech. However, this is not the case, through campaign donations one person can make their voice
louder than that of millions of others, which is inherently undemocratic. If one person can decide multiple
elections with their economic power, the voice of the people can’t be heard.
In 2020 the Elizabeth Warren Super PAC, Persist PAC, spent around $15 million dollars in the election; the
largest amount of any PAC during the democratic primary. $14.6 million of those $15 million came from one
person, Karla Juverston. Elizabeth Warren was one of the most outspoken candidates against super PACs, but
after the donation became public she quickly switched rhetoric on the subject. This is one prominent example
of how big money can easily influence a candidate or sitting politician. Another example of the influence of
Super PACs, but on the Republican side, would be Sheldon Adelson. Despite being fairly obscure in the public
eye, Adelson was the largest donator to PACs in the 2018 election cycle. Adelson donated $122,250,000 to
PACs in 2018; by far the most donated with the second most being Mike Bloomberg who donated $92,000,000
in 2018. These large amounts of money have a real effect on elections. In those 2018 donations, Adelson
donated $50,00,000 to the Senate Leadership fund, this conservative Super Pac spent every penny they
received; of every election, they spent money on 70% of their candidates won. Adelson also donated
$10,000,000 to the America First Action Super PAC, of the campaigns that received this money 60% won the
Proposal for Action:
The creation of the 28th amendment to the United States Constitution.
The Amendment will read as follows:
To protect the U.S. election process from the influence of extremely wealthy individuals no individual, business, or union will be able to donate in unlimited amounts of legal tender to any political campaign in the United States. This also applies to organizations raising funds independently or in coordination with a candidate’s campaign. This restriction also includes any political party committee.
Section 2. Congress shall establish a reasonable donation limit with respect to the average citizen’s wealth. This limit shall be updated every 10 years to adjust for inflation or any other unforeseen circumstances.
Any and all contributions to federal political campaigns must be reported to a central body, within the federal government, and be subject to regulations of political donations, with no exceptions. No organization raising funds for a candidate, no matter how independent or impartial, shall be exempt from government regulations on campaign finance.
Candidates for any political office may not contribute personal wealth to their own campaign or to any organization supporting their candidacy
Foreign entities may not in any way make donations to any political entity supporting a candidacy within the United States, any campaign found to be accepting such donations will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This will not apply to immigrants in the naturalization process, or any form thereof, that have established Permanent residency.
Section 6. Electioneering by corporations, individuals, and any other organization supporting a political
campaign is strictly prohibited
Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Results to be Expected:
Corporate influence on the U.S. political process will be greatly diminished. Elected officials will have no choice but to listen to their constituents and accurately represent their interest if they hope to receive donations for their re-election campaigns. The supreme court ruling of Citizens United V. The Federal Election Commission will effectively be overturned. Corporations are treated as United States citizens, because of this amendment they will become subject to laws, the same as any other U.S. citizen.
This might seem like something that could be written upon a spare afternoon, but I put uncountable hours into researching, writing, and perfecting my proposal. The amount of time I spent researching campaign finance laws, legal precedents, FEC donation limits and regulations, solutions, etc. taught me valuable research skills that will help me for the rest of my life. The presentation of this proposal to my committee also taught me valuable debate and speaking skills. Lastly, it taught me how to take pride in my work no matter what the outcome of it may be. While my proposal did not pass the general assembly it was recognized as 1 of the 5 proposals of the day, there were 600 potential other proposals. I consider this to be one of my best pieces of work.