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Senate Vote Expected Today on Amendment to Limit Campaign Spending

PHOTO: Senator John McCain, once an advocate for campaign finance reform, is among those opposed to a proposed constitutional amendment that would give Congress and states control of political campaign spending limits. Photo courtesy of the Office of Senator McCain.
PHOTO: Senator John McCain, once an advocate for campaign finance reform, is among those opposed to a proposed constitutional amendment that would give Congress and states control of political campaign spending limits. Photo courtesy of the Office of Senator McCain.
July 10, 2014

PHOENIX - Senator John McCain, once a visible advocate for campaign finance reform, is among those opposed to a proposed constitutional amendment which would give Congress and states control of political campaign spending limits. The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on Senate Joint Resolution 19 Thursday.

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 Arizonans can help by asking McCain, and his colleague Senator Jeff Flake, to support the constitutional amendment.

"Senator McCain has a strong history of supporting campaign finance reform, supporting fair elections, and supporting democracy for the people," says Minkoff-Zern. "But he's refusing to take a stand in support of this constitutional amendment. He needs to know people are angry that he hasn't supported this measure."

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

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - AZ