Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) argued “a constitutional amendment is what this nation needs to bring sanity back to political campaigns and restore Americans’ confidence in their elected leaders.”
That amendment, proposed by Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), would allow Congress to regulate campaign finance, including Super PACs, at the federal level while giving states the same authority to regulate spending and fundraising at their level.
The senators introduced the amendment a year ago in an attempt to circumvent the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
“I’ve been asking Nevadans to vote for me for decades, and I’ve seen firsthand how this dark money is perverting our political process,” Reid testified. “I ran for re-election in 1998 against John Ensign, 5 years before the passage of McCain-Feingold. That election was a miserable experience, for both my opponent and me, because of the influence of special interests. In 2004, after we passed McCain-Feingold, the campaign felt as if the air had been cleared. But by 2010, following the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, the situation was as bad as ever. Corporations and special interests were meddling in races like never before. It has only gotten worse since.”
Reid complained that “outside groups” spent more than $1 billion in the 2012 presidential campaign because campaign finance decisions “eviscerated our campaign finance laws and opened the floodgates for special interests.”
“I find it hard to fathom that my Republican colleagues would want to defend the status quo. Do any members of this committee really think the status quo is working?… How could everyday, working American families afford to make their voices heard, if money equals free speech? American families can’t compete with billionaires.”
Reid declared that the constitutional amendment “is about restoring freedom of speech to all Americans.”
“The Supreme Court has effectively said, the more money you have the more speech you get, and the more influence in our democracy. That is wrong. Our involvement in government should not be dependent on our bank account balances,” he said.
“The American people reject the notion that money gives the Koch brothers, corporations or special interest groups a greater voice in government than American voters. They believe, as I do, that elections in our country should be decided by voters – those Americans who have a constitutional, fundamental right to elect their representatives. The Constitution doesn’t give corporations a vote, and it doesn’t give dollar bills a vote.”