It hasn’t gotten much attention, and I have no reason to believe that it will succeed, but six senators have introduced a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would authorize Congress to regulate campaign fund-raising and spending.
It’s very hard (as it probably should be) to amend the Constitution. A proposed amendment must pass both houses of Congress by a two-thirds margin and then be ratified by three-fourths of the states. The six sponsors of this campaign finance amendment are all Democrats. Except in extraordinary circumstances, constitutional amendments cannot climb the tall mountain of the ratification process without enduring bipartisan support. Bipartisanship — and even moreso bipartisanship about changes to the electoral process — is rare these days.
Still, given the Supreme Court rulings that have declared campaign contributions and spending to be a form of speech (therefore protected from regulation under the First Amendment) and declared that corporations and other associations are “persons” with a right of free speech, there is little that Congress can do to restrain the enormous amounts of money that flood the campaign coffers of candidates and greatly amplify the voices of those with the money to buy the amplifiers.
The Amendment as proposed wouldn’t solve the problem. It would only assign to Congress the power to regulate the raising and spending of money to influence federal elections (and constitutionalize the same power to states for state elections). Absent such an amendment and given the Supreme Court decisions (most recently in the 2010 Citizens United ruling), there seems to be no practical way to tamp down or slow down the monetization of politics.
The lead author of the amendment is Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico. Here is his statement, which begins:
“We cannot stand idly by and watch our elections be fundamentally degraded by a flood of unaccountable money into the system.”