Senator Max Baucus Proposes Constitutional Amendment to Allow Regulation of Campaign Funding

By David Swanson

The DISCLOSE Act, a bill passed by the House that would regulate corporate election spending was blocked in the Senate on Thursday by a filibuster — momentum is building to eliminate that anti-democratic tool.

And momentum is building, as well, for reforms of our campaign finance system that go beyond what the DISCLOSE Act would do. On Tuesday, Senator Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, proposed a new Constitutional Amendment that he described as a response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case earlier this year. That ruling allows corporations to spend unlimited money from their general funds to elect or defeat political candidates.

“We have got to make sure elections remain in the hands of the people, it’s a simple as that,” Baucus said. “We Montanans learned our lesson almost a century ago when the copper kings leveraged their corporate power to effectively buy elections. As a result, we have some of the toughest campaign finance laws in the land — and they work.”

Baucus’ amendment takes a slightly different approach to the same problem addressed by an amendment already introduced by Congresswoman Donna Edwards, or one introduced by Congressman Paul Hodes, or another from Senators Chris Dodd and Tom Udall, or one from Congressman Leonard Boswell. Here are these various amendments, followed by Baucus’s:

Edwards (24 cosponsors):

Section 1. The sovereign right of the people to govern being essential to a free democracy, Congress and the States may regulate the expenditure of funds for political speech by any corporation, limited liability company, or other corporate entity.
Section 2. Nothing contained in this Article shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.

Hodes (0 cosponsors):

Section 1. The sovereign right of the people to govern and hold free elections being essential to a free democracy, this constitution shall not be construed to limit the authority of Congress or the States to regulate, with regard to the impact on any political campaign or campaign for election for public office, the spending and activities of any corporation, limited liability partnership, business trust, or other corporate entity created by State or Federal law or the law of another nation.
Section 2. Nothing contained in this article shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.

Dodd and Udall (3 cosponsors):

SECTION1. Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money with respect to Federal elections, including through setting limits on
(1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, Federal office; and
(2) the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.
SECTION2. A State shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money with respect to State elections, including through setting limits on
(1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, State office; and
(2) the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.
SECTION3. Congress shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Boswell (0 cosponsors):

No corporation or labor organization may use any of its operating funds or any other funds from its general treasury to make any payment for any advertisement in connection with a campaign for election for Federal office, without regard to whether or not the advertisement expressly advocates the election or defeat of a specified candidate in the election.

And here’s the newly proposed amendment from Senator Baucus:

Section 1. Congress shall have the power to regulate the contribution of funds by corporations and labor organizations to a candidate for election to, or for nomination for election to, a Federal office, and the power to regulate the expenditure of funds by corporations and labor organizations made in support of, or opposition to, such candidates.

Section 2. A State shall have the power to regulate the contribution of funds by corporations and labor organizations to a candidate for election to, or for nomination for election to, public office in the State, and the power to regulate the expenditure of funds by corporations and labor organizations made in support of, or opposition to, such candidates.

Section 3. Nothing contained in this Amendment shall be construed to allow Congress or a State to make any law abridging the freedom of the press.

I see a hundred things I’d change in each of these, and I’m not even a lawyer. But the biggest thing to change is the number of cosponsors. A movement is needed to drive this agenda forward, either through the Congress or through a convention called by the states circumventing Congress. One thing that can’t hurt is the growing number of senators and representatives taking the matter seriously enough to draft their own ideal amendments.

Comments are closed.