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Resolution Would Return Campaign Spending Control to States

PHOTO: Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin are co-sponsors of a proposed constitutional amendment giving Congress and states control of political campaign spending. A committee vote is expected Thursday. Photos courtesy of Senator Mikulski and Senator Cardin's offices.
PHOTO: Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin are co-sponsors of a proposed constitutional amendment giving Congress and states control of political campaign spending. A committee vote is expected Thursday. Photos courtesy of Senator Mikulski and Senator Cardin's offices.
July 10, 2014

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - A proposed constitutional amendment to give political campaign spending control to Congress and states is expected to come before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee for a vote on Thursday. Senate Joint Resolution 19 is co-sponsored by Maryland Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski.

Jonah Minkoff-Zern, campaign co-director with Public Citizen, says the amendment would help reverse the effect big money has had on elections following multiple U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have increased campaign spending limits.

"Across political lines, people are saying they want a constitutional amendment, they want big money out of our political system," says Minkoff-Zern. "They see they're no longer in control of the people who are supposed to represent them."

Minkoff-Zern says Supreme Court rulings - in Buckley versus Valeo in the 1970s and the more recent Citizens United and McCutcheon cases - have determined spending money on elections is a form of speech or opinion, thereby making campaign contributions, not simply campaign messages, a First Amendment issue.

A Senate subcommittee approved Senate Joint Resolution 19 last month, and passage Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee will likely lead to a full Senate vote later this summer.

Minkoff-Zern says the fact the Senate is considering a constitutional amendment is a win for the American people.

"For the over 550 local municipalities that have called for a constitutional amendment, for the 16 states that have called for a constitutional amendment, the fact the U.S. Senate is taking it up for a vote is a huge victory," he says.

Passage of a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote in Congress, and support from three-quarters, or 38, of the states.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD