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Democrats Founder Over What Actually To Write In Koch-Targeted Constitutional Amendment

June 30, 2014 by  

Democrats Founder Over What Actually To Write In Koch-Targeted Constitutional Amendment
SCREENSHOT

A while back, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) threw a big fit about how he intends to force repeated Senate floor votes to amend the Constitution (yes, that Constitution) to authorize Congress to give the conservative Koch brothers what’s coming to ’em.

The amendment would authorize Congress to regulate the fundraising process for Federal-level election campaigns, and it would grant that same authority to State Legislatures for State-level elections. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) are responsible for writing the amendment; an early draft is here.

There was only one reason to craft the bill, as Reid himself gleefully acknowledged in May: “That really puts the Koch brothers up against it. We believe and I believe that there should be spending limits. We’re going to push a constitutional amendment so we can limit spending because what is going on today is awful.”

Perhaps there’s a special urgency to this for Reid, since the Koch brothers will probably die before the Constitution does (and after they do, well, there’s no harm in a vestigial amendment that, in its day, served its transitory political purpose).

In the meantime, the amendment actually has to have semi-credible language in it. Because the amendment is a total floor show, and since no one in Congress — least of all Reid — would benefit from placing spending limits on their whale donors, the content of the document itself has kind of been an afterthought.

But amending the Constitution is kind of a big deal, as its sponsors are finding out. Udall and Bennet recently attempted a rewrite, but, as the Washington Examiner observed last week, that effort simply “revealed [the amendment’s] fatal flaw.”

This is the heart of the amendment as originally written by Udall and Bennet:

“To advance the fundamental principle of political equality for all, and to protect the integrity of the legislative and electoral processes, Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to federal elections, including through setting limits on –

 (1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, federal office; and

(2) the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.”

There are literally no limits to congressional power in those words. In the name of “political equality for all,” Democrats proposed to change the Constitution to allow lawmakers to impose any restriction they want on campaign fundraising and spending — in other words, on campaigning itself.

The amendment’s markup process hasn’t gotten much play in the mainstream press (try Googling it). A subcommittee debated the measure on June 18, and the revision came out of that debate — thanks in large part to the objections of Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who questioned how the measure would stand up to the 1st Amendment when the Supreme Court had so recently declared such spending limits unConstititonal in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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