U.S. Sens Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., introduced a constitutional amendment to grant Congress the authority to regulate the campaign finance system, a move that would allow Congress to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that essentially put its stamp of approval on practically unlimited corporate and special interest spending in elections.
The controversial 2010 Supreme Court decision ruled that corporations have the same free speech protections as individual Americans under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, thus making it unconstitutional for government to regulate the money spent to influence elections.
2012 Will Be Another Big Money Campaign/Election
As we head into another election year, we are about to see unprecedented amounts of money spent on efforts to influence the outcome of our elections, Udall said in a statement. With the Supreme Court striking down the sensible regulations Congress has passed, the only way to address the root cause of this problem is to give Congress clear authority to regulate the campaign finance system.
Multiple states that had previously instituted laws prohibiting or limiting independent expenditures by unions and corporations were forced to change those laws to comply with the Supreme Court ruling. In 2010 multiple senators introduced legislation aiming to undue the decision known as the DISCLOSE Act. The measure passed in the U.S. House of Representatives but failed in the Senate.
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The proposed amendment, which was co-sponsored by fellow Democratic Sens. Tom Harkin of Iowa, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Chuck Schumer of New York, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, states that both Congress and individual states will have the power to regulate and limit the amount of campaign contributions to candidates running for elected office. It would also regulate and limit independent expenditures -- such as those from Super PACs -- made in support or opposition of candidates and would allow Congress to pass campaign finance reform legislation that withstands constitutional challenges.
Similar Amendment Introduced in House
U.S. Rep Donna Edwards, D-Md., introduced a similar amendment to the House of Representatives in September. The amendment, which was also sponsored by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., would also reverse the Citizens United decision.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in February 2010 found that 80 percent of Americans opposed the Citizens United ruling, including 65 percent who said they strongly opposed it. Those who said they disapproved of the ruling included 76 percent of Republicans, 81 percent of Independents and 85 percent of Democrats.
The same poll found that up to 77 percent of respondents were in support of Congressional legislation to reinstate restrictions on campaign finance spending.
A similar bipartisan poll conducted by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and Republican strategist Mark McKinnon during the same period found that more than 60 percent of respondents opposed the decision.