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Senate Vote on Campaign Spending Limits Expected

PHOTO: It's about democracy, but will a vote expected today on Capitol Hill do enough to continue the attempt to control political campaign spending? Photo by Greg Stotelmyer.
PHOTO: It's about democracy, but will a vote expected today on Capitol Hill do enough to continue the attempt to control political campaign spending? Photo by Greg Stotelmyer.
July 10, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. - A vote is expected Thursday in Washington on a constitutional amendment giving Congress and the states control of political campaign spending. The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider Joint Resolution 19, which is co-sponsored by more than 40 senators.

Jonah Minkoff-Zern, campaign co-director at Public Citizen, said the resolution would help reverse the effect that big money is having on elections, following multiple U.S. Supreme Court rulings increasing campaign spending limits.

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

Minkoff-Zern added that recent Supreme Court rulings determined that spending money on elections is a form of speech or opinion. Campaign contributions, no longer simply campaign messages, are now a First Amendment issue.

The group Move to Amend has led a national campaign to end what it sees as the deterioration of democracy.

According to Joy Arnold, who chairs Central Kentucky Move to Amend, passage of the amendment would send a false message that the problem has been solved.

"Because most of Congress has been put where they are by large contributions from corporations and the wealthy," said Arnold, "we don't think they're in any position to regulate campaign finance. We need to have it clearly declared that money is not speech."

Arnold said a constitutional amendment should also make clear that corporations are not 'people.'

A Senate subcommittee approved the resolution last month. Passage by the Judiciary Committee would likely lead to a full Senate vote later this summer.

Minkoff-Zern said the Senate considering such 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, it's a huge victory, the fact the U.S. Senate is taking it up for a vote."

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

Read the text of Joint Resolution 19.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY