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MT's Senators Support Returning Campaign Spending Control to States

PHOTO: Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh of Montana are co-sponsors of a proposed constitutional amendment giving Congress and the states control of political campaign spending. A committee vote is expected Thursday. Photos courtesy of Senator Tester and Senator Walsh's offices.
PHOTO: Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh of Montana are co-sponsors of a proposed constitutional amendment giving Congress and the states control of political campaign spending. A committee vote is expected Thursday. Photos courtesy of Senator Tester and Senator Walsh's offices.
July 10, 2014

HELENA, Mont. - Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh are cosponsors of a proposed constitutional amendment that would give control over political campaign spending to Congress and the states. Senate Joint Resolution 19 is expected to be voted on Thursday in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

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 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 - MT