Amending the Constitution: Senators Try to Knock Out Citizens United

Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

As we continue to wait out the midterm election with one eye on the partisan split, it’s worth turning your other eye, if only very briefly, to look at the Senate Judiciary Committee’s proposed constitutional amendment — one that would aim to alter campaign financing rules in a major. The Citizens United Supreme Court case has been the landmark campaign funding guideline since it was ruled in 2010. It held that under the first amendment there could be no governmental control of political funding from businesses, unions, and non-profits.

Later, in 2014, the Supreme Court campaign ruling in the McCutcheon case marked another major ruling against caps or contribution limits. The majority opinion said that generalized caps on federal candidates and parties “intrude without justification on a citizen’s ability to exercise the most fundamental First Amendment activities.” The new Senate motion would alter the Constitution, thereby making said ruling no longer applicable. The amendment is being sponsored  by Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and would put uniform and strict limits in place for elections.

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,” reads the joint resolution, outlining funds to be controlled, including contributions to the candidate, contributions against a candidate, nomination contributions, etc. It clearly states that freedom of the press is a separate and unrelated issue, but that both Congress and state government would be able to put legislation in place and enforce it to ensure the equal fiscal footing of elections.

The amendment is an interesting one for a few reasons. It’s likely to remain a visual — a press piece — and would never make it through the House, or even the Senate in all likelihood, but it’s the legislative form of what has become a very familiar argument at this point, and is therefore an interesting concept to consider. Democrats have a well known rhetoric on campaign funding, criticizing Republicans for their dependence on big money, suggesting it makes them over-advantaged opponents and biased in their legislative decisions. Republicans, on the other hand, argue that money does not buy their vote and that Democrats have their own contributors with big wallets leaning their direction — from Hollywood especially. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been one highly vocal Democrats, focusing his fire power on the Koch brothers, oil industry billionaires with a penchant for financially contributing to major GOP campaigns and interests.