Personal Liberty Poll
Campaign finance has been in the spotlight this week, as Senators debated Tuesday a proposed Constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to regulate and place limits on spending for Federal campaigns.
The amendment, drafted by Democratic Senators Tom Udall (N.M.) and Michael Bennet (Nev.), would walk back the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens’ United ruling, which classified political spending as a form of free speech.
The Democratic initiative would place caps on the amount office seekers are allowed to spend on campaigns, focusing especially on political contributions from outside groups. It would also give States similar powers to regulate the political process.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) — who has perpetually attacked the campaign spending of wealthy conservatives like that of brothers Charles and David Koch — is, unsurprisingly, a vehement supporter of the idea of the Constitutional amendment.
“I am here because the flood of dark money into our nation’s political system poses the greatest threat to our democracy that I have witnessed during my tenure in public service,” Reid said in testimony before the Senate Judiciary committee.
Lamenting that the Supreme Court has created an electoral system wherein billionaires are pitted against billionaires, leaving average Americans voiceless, Reid called on lawmakers to support the amendment.
“We sit here today faced with a simple choice: We can keep the status quo and argue all day, all night, weekends, forever about whose billionaires are right, or we can work together to change the system, to get this shady money out of our democracy and restore the basic principle of one American, one vote,” Reid said.
The brothers Koch have come under repeated fire from Reid and vulnerable Democratic lawmakers in recent months after news broke that the wealth industrialists planned to spend more than $100 million to unseat Democrats in the midterm elections.
“The American people reject the notion that gives the Koch brothers, corporations or special-interest groups a greater voice in government [than other voters],” Reid complained.
The Senate’s top Democrat also called out Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday, noting that the GOP lawmaker had supported a 1988 amendment to limit independent campaign expenditures.
“Senator McConnell had the right idea then. I am optimistic that we can find a way to rekindle those noble principles in him now,” he said.
But McConnell, in follow-up testimony, said that the Democrats’ proposal jeopardizes Americans’ 1st Amendment protections.
“The First Amendment is about empowering the people, not the government,” McConnell said.
“The proposed amendment has it exactly backwards. It says that Congress and the States can pass whatever law they want abridging political speech — the speech that is at the very core of the First Amendment.”
The Kentucky Senator also accused Democrats of using the proposal to excite their voter base.
“This is a political exercise, and that’s all it is,” he said. “The goal here is to stir up one party’s political base, so they’ll show up in November.”
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) blasted Democrats who support the amendment, claiming that it could represent the first step in government’s power to limit all manner of free speech.
“And where are the liberals today — why is there not a liberal standing here defending the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment?” Cruz exclaimed.
He went on to explain that the amendment is an assault on both sides of the political spectrum.
“Forty-two Democrats have signed their name to a constitutional amendment that would give Congress the power to muzzle Planned Parenthood and the National Right to Life,” he said. “Forty-two Democrats have signed their name to giving Congress the right to muzzle the Sierra Club, to muzzle the the National Rifle Association and the Brady Center on Handgun Violence. To muzzle Michael Moore and Dinesh D’Souza. To muzzle the Teamsters and the National Education Association. To muzzle the NAACP. To muzzle the Anti-Defamation League. To muzzle pastors and priests and rabbis who organize their parishioners to be involved in politics.”
The Texas lawmaker also announced two pieces of legislation he penned to counter the Democrats’ campaign finance amendment. Cruz’s “Free All Speech Act” would declare that all free speech laws apply equally to average citizens and media corporations. And his SuperPAC Elimination Act of 2014 would eliminate caps on direct contributions from citizens to candidates, while requiring all donations over $200 to be disclosed within 24 hours.
Though the Democrats’ Constitutional amendment has little chance of garnering the support needed to change the law of the land, Americans can be sure that they haven’t heard the end of campaign finance talk from the left.
A new book out from journalist Ken Vogel leaves no doubt that campaign finance is still an issue that President Barack Obama could attempt to wade into, using the bully pulpit of the Oval Office.
During a 2012 closed-door fundraiser in Seattle, according to Vogel’s Big Money, Obama told a group of wealthy liberal donors that after he secured a second term, he’d be “in a very strong position” to demand that the Constitution be amended to limit political spending.
“Now, I taught constitutional law. I don’t tinker with the Constitution lightly. But I think this is important enough that citizens have to get mobilized around this issue, and this will probably be a multiyear effort,” Obama said, according to an excerpt published by Mother Jones.
“After my reelection, my sense is that I may be in a very strong position to do it,” Obama reportedly went on.