Common Cause Hails Senate Subcommittee Vote for Constitutional Amendment Permitting Common Sense Limits on Political Spending

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  • Dale Eisman

June 18, 2014

Today’s Senate subcommittee endorsement of a constitutional amendment permitting common-sense limits on campaign spending “is an important step toward putting voters back at the center of our elections,” said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport.

“In the name of free speech, the Supreme Court has turned the First Amendment inside out, giving the rich and powerful license to drown out the rest of us.  Our founders intended that the Constitution would protect everyone’s right to speak, not assist a handful of billionaires and corporations in speaking so loudly that other voices can no longer be heard. This amendment aims to put things back into balance.”

The proposed amendment, advanced 5-4 by a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, would allow Congress and the states to set “reasonable” limits on the raising and spending of money in elections in the wake of the Roberts Court’s radical deregulation of big money in cases like Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC.

Working off an original draft introduced by Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, subcommittee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-IL, successfully pushed the panel to adopt new language he said simplifies and strengthens the proposal. The new language reads: 

Section 1.  To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.    

Section 2.  Congress and the States shall have power to implement this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.

Section 3.  Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.

The revised amendment language heads next to the full Judiciary Committee and ultimately to the Senate floor, where Senate Majority Leader Reid has promised a vote this summer.