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"Historic" Vote on Campaign Finance Reform Today

PHOTO: The U.S.Senate is expected to vote today on a proposed constitutional amendment that would help take big money out of politics. Photo credit: Scrumshus/wikimedia.
PHOTO: The U.S.Senate is expected to vote today on a proposed constitutional amendment that would help take big money out of politics. Photo credit: Scrumshus/wikimedia.
September 8, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Advocates for campaign finance reform say the U.S. Senate is expected to make an historic vote today on Senate Joint Resolution 19. That's the proposed constitutional amendment that would give Congress and the states control of political campaign spending limits.

Benjamin Singer, campaign director with Common Cause Illinois, says Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Dick Durban (D-Ill.) have been great champions of campaign finance reform, voting for the McCain-Feingold Law in 2002.

"That centerpiece of campaign finance reform has been gutted by the Supreme Court," Singer says. "SJR 19 would say that common sense campaign finance regulations are not a violation of the First Amendment and it would allow for this reform that both Senator Kirk and Senator Durbin, from opposite sides of the aisle, have supported to be legal."

Supreme Court rulings, including the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases, have determined that spending money on elections is a form of speech or opinion, making campaign contributions not simply campaign messages, but a First Amendment issue.

Experts say passage of the resolution is unlikely given that it needs two-thirds support, or 67 votes. But Singer says the broad political support is an important symbolic victory in what will likely be a long-term political effort to get big money out of politics. And it's an effort, he adds, that many from Illinois support.

"In rural, suburban and urban areas in Illinois people are really angry about this," Singer says. "People feel like the policies that affect them are something they don't' have a say in, and this is part of why people aren't showing up to vote. They feel like this is a game for billionaires."

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

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL