April 30, 2014

Schumer: Senate Democrats Will Bring Udall Constitutional Amendment to Undo McCutcheon, Citizens United Decisions to the Floor This Year

Senator Tom Udall’s Constitutional Amendment Reverses Supreme Court Decisions Such As Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC; Allows Congress and States to Regulate Campaign Finances Including Super PACs


Schumer Made Announcement at Senate Committee on Rules and Administration Hearing Where Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens Testified


Schumer: Amendment Would Prevent Us from Going Back to the Days of the Robber Barons

Today, Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Chairman of the Rules Committee, announced that Senate Democrats will bring a Constitutional Amendment, sponsored by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), to reform the nation’s campaign finance system to the floor for a vote this year. This proposed amendment would reverse such Supreme Court decisions as Buckley v. Valeo, Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC, restoring authority to regulate and limit the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns back to Congress and state governments. The amendment also grants Congress and State governments the authority to regulate and limit independent expenditures, such as those from Super PACs. Schumer made the announcement at today’s hearing on campaign finance at the Senate Rules Committee, featuring testimony from former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
“The Supreme Court is trying to take this country back to the days of the robber barons, allowing dark money to flood our elections,” said Schumer. “That needs to stop, and it needs to stop now. The only way to undo the damage the court has done is to pass Senator 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.”
“Free and fair elections are a founding principle of our democracy, but the Supreme Court's rulings have ensured that they are now for sale to the highest bidder," said U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.). "It's now crystal clear that we need a constitutional amendment to restore integrity in our election system. I am grateful for the support from Senator Reid and Senator Schumer, and I look forward to a vote in the Senate as soon as possible to ensure our government is of, by and for the people – not bought and paid for by secret donors and special interests.”
Specifically, this 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
•       Allows 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.
Schumer’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, appear below:

On April 2nd this year, the Supreme Court announced its misguided decision in the case of McCutcheon vs. FEC, four years after its disastrous ruling in the case of Citizens United.

These decisions, and others like them, could result in the end of any fairness in the political system as we know it, and open the door to an era of corruption like we haven’t seen in his country in over a century.

Wealthy donors have wreaked havoc on our political system by flooding it with cash, and with the current court we are on the fast track back to the days of the robber barons running the show.

McCutcheon took us another step closer to completely unleashing mega-donors to spread their money and influence to every single member of Congress – and to state and local races too.  This is a dagger pointed at the heart of our democracy.

We saw what happened in the wake of Citizens United – a tidal wave of special interest spending rolled through the 2010 and 2012 election cycles.    And much of that money was anonymous – we didn’t even know who was donating it.

I want to thank my colleague, Senator King, for putting together this excellent hearing to shine a bright light on the problem of anonymous campaign donations – sometimes called “dark money” for a good reason. 

This is the first of several campaign finance hearings the Rules Committee will hold this year.

Our system of government is the best in the world as long as every citizen-- poor, middle class, or wealthy –can participate and believe the political system is honest and fair.

But these recent Supreme Court opinions, if unchallenged, could end that legacy and permanently taint future elections.

That’s why Senate Democrats are going to vote this year on my colleague Tom Udall’s constitutional amendment which would once and for all allow Congress to make laws to regulate our system, without the risk of them being eviscerated by a conservative Supreme Court.

We are going to bring it up, and we ought to pass it in the Senate without delay. I will be working with Senator Udall and Majority Leader Reid and every Republican who cares about honest elections to bring it to the floor this year. 

This should be a bipartisan effort, and I believe most Americans will cheer us on.  Every American ought to have a fair shot at having their voice heard in our political system.
There are those, both on the right and left, that seek to spend untold millions of secret dollars to buy our elections. On both sides of the political spectrum, that needs to stop.

Opponents of campaign finance regulation, including five current Supreme Court Justices, base their position on the specious argument that this unlimited, undisclosed flood of campaign money is protected as free speech. 

But that is a mockery of the First Amendment. 

The First Amendment protection of free speech is part of what makes America great. 

But we have restrictions, like noise ordinances, on speech that could harm others.  The same should be true for money in politics. 

In 2012, only 700 donors would have benefitted from the McCutcheon decision. Such a small number of wealthy people should not be able to drown out the voices of the millions of Americans who vote, but can only give a few dollars – or none.

If we are to remain a great country, a great democracy, a government of the people, by the people and for the people, we cannot allow a tsunami of money to wash over our democratic elections. 

Money in politics is often compared to water flowing downhill – something impossible to stop. 

But the Supreme Court has blown up the dam and challenged Congress to hold back the flood.  It’s time for Congress to act – to reassert its role and protect the rights of all Americans – not just those with the fattest wallet – to participate in politics and be heard. 

We are particularly honored to have Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens as our first panel. 

Since leaving the Court, he has spoken out vigorously for real campaign finance reform. 

I would like to thank all of our outstanding witnesses for being here today, and we look forward to their testimony.