Senate Democrats Move to Amend Constitution to Stop 'Dark Money'

Wednesday, 30 Apr 2014 02:05 PM

By Melanie Batley

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Senate Democrats plan to introduce a constitutional amendment this year that would reverse Supreme Court rulings that eliminated donor caps and paved the way for millions of dollars of new campaign money to flow into the political system.

According to Business Insider, the amendment, which is sponsored by New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall, and supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, would restore authority to Congress and state governments in regulating campaign spending.

Schumer, who announced the legislation at a Senate Rules Committee hearing Wednesday, said there would be a vote on the amendment by the end of the year, according to the Insider.

"The Supreme Court is trying to take this country back to the days of the robber barons, allowing dark money to flood our elections. That needs to stop, and it needs to stop now," Schumer said, according to the Insider.

"The only way to undo the damage the court has done is to pass Sen. Udall's amendment to the Constitution, and Senate Democrats are going to try to do that. Before the year is out, we're going to bring it up on the Senate floor for a vote, where we hope Republicans will join us in ensuring the wealthy can't drown out middle-class voices in our democracy."

The 2010 Citizens United ruling removed spending limits on corporations and unions in political campaigns, leading to the rise of the so-called Super PACs.

An April ruling in the McCutcheon case, dubbed "Citizens United 2.0," ended the limit on the aggregate amount individuals can spend on candidates, PACs, and parties in a two-year election cycle, though did not raise the current limit of $2,300 to each beneficiary. 

Udall's amendment proposes five ways to reverse the liberalization of spending limits from the court rulings:

• Restore authority to Congress and the states to regulate and limit the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns.

• Allow states to regulate campaign spending at their level.

• Include the authority to regulate and limit independent expenditures, such as those from Super PACs.

• Allow Congress to pass campaign finance reform legislation that withstands constitutional challenges.

• Expressly provide that any regulation authorized under the amendment cannot limit the freedom of the press.

Business Insider says that it is "extremely unlikely" that Udall's amendment will ever become part of the Constitution, given it would need to be passed by two-thirds of both the House and the Senate and then be ratified by three-quarters of the states.

"However, the amendment serves as more fodder for Senate Democrats in an election year that has seen them go full throttle with attacks on the billionaire Republican megadonor Koch brothers," the website says.

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