Bennet Proposes Effort to Fix Campaign Finance System with Constitutional Amendment

Amendment Grants Congress Authority to Regulate Campaign Finance, Follows Colorado's Call for Reform

U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Tom Udall (D-NM) today reintroduced a constitutional amendment that would restore authority to Congress, individual states and the American people to regulate campaign finance. The two Senators originally introduced the amendment in November 2011.

The constitutional amendment would allow Congress to address the dangerous Citizens United Supreme Court decision and rein in the unprecedented flood of secret money in the campaign finance system. Congress would regulate the raising and spending of money, including so-called “Super PAC” independent expenditures, while giving states the same authority to regulate campaign finance at their level.

“People in Colorado and across the country are tired of cycle after cycle of limitless anonymous spending on campaign ads. It overwhelms the airwaves,” Bennet said. “The Citizens United decision did a huge disservice to the American people’s right to know who is trying to sway their vote. A campaign finance structure that increases transparency will help restore confidence in our democracy. This amendment gets to the heart of that effort.”

“Money and free speech are not the same thing, and it is a tortured logic to say so,” Udall said. “We can’t fix this broken system until we undo the false premise – that spending money on elections is the same thing as the constitutional right of free speech. There are only two ways to change this: The Supreme Court could reverse itself, which is not likely, or we can amend the Constitution, which would overturn bad decisions and prevent future ones. I believe the growing momentum demonstrates that this is the right time for us to act.”

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Super PACs and 501(c) nonprofit groups spent $1 billion in unlimited contributions from millionaires, billionaires, corporations, labor unions and other special interest groups to influence the 2012 federal elections. As much as $400 million of this total came in the form of secret donations.

Since the Citizens United case, 15 states – 30 percent of the U.S. – and more than 400 local governments have called on Congress to overturn Citizens United through ballot initiatives, resolutions or other measures, showing strong public support for reform.

Colorado voters approved Amendment 65 last November, which urged Colorado’s Congressional delegation to support campaign finance reform through a Constitutional amendment.

In 2012, voters in Montana also approved a statewide initiative supporting a constitutional amendment, which passed with more than 70 percent approval. During the 2012 legislative session, both the New Mexico House and state Senate passed resolutions calling on Congress to send an amendment to the states for ratification.

Last Congress, Udall and Bennet led the fight for a similar constitutional amendment, which garnered 25 cosponsors.

Original cosponsors of the Udall-Bennet amendment include Sens. Harkin (D-IA), Schumer (D-NY), Shaheen (D-NH), Whitehouse (D-RI), Tester (D-MT), Boxer (D-CA), Coons (D-DE), King (I-ME), Murphy (D-CT), Wyden (D-OR), Franken (D-MN), Klobuchar (D-MN), and Mark Udall (D-CO).

The proposed constitutional amendment:

  • Restores authority to the American people, through 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;
  • Includes the authority to regulate and limit independent expenditures, like those from Super PACs;
  • Would not dictate any specific policies or regulations, but instead would allow Congress to pass campaign finance reform legislation that withstands constitutional challenges;
  • Expressly provides that any regulation authorized under the amendment cannot limit the freedom of the press.

The full text of the legislation can be found here.