Senate showdown likely coming over campaign spending
May 15th, 2014
01:08 PM ET
4 months ago

Senate showdown likely coming over campaign spending

Washington (CNN) - Saying that "No one should be able to pump unlimited funds into political campaigns, whether they are Democrat, Republican or independent," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday strongly backed a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit campaign spending by outside groups.

Reid announced on the Senate floor that the Judiciary Committee would soon hold a hearing on the amendment, introduced earlier this year by Democratic Sens. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Michael Bennet of Colorado, and that the full "Senate will vote on that legislation."

The measure would curb unlimited campaign spending by giving Congress the authority to regulate raising and spending limits for federal elections.

"Sens. Udall and Bennet's amendment reins in the massive spending of super PACs which have grown so much since the Citizens United decision," Reid added.

That's the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that removed legal barriers preventing corporations and unions from spending unlimited sums on federal elections.

The amendment should likely pass the Judiciary Committee, where it only needs a simple majority to advance. But its chances of passing the full Senate, where it needs a two-thirds majority, are extremely slim, due to broad GOP opposition.

As he has numerous times the past few months, Reid targeted much of his firepower against the billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch, who have spent hundreds of millions since 2010, through the conservative non-profit political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity and other organizations, to attack Democrats and support Republicans. Overall, pro-GOP outside groups have heavily outspent their pro-Democratic rivals since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling opened the floodgates.

"There is absolutely no question the Koch brothers are in a category of their own, in both degree and kind. No one else pumping money into the shadowy campaign organizations and campaigns like they are. There isn't even a close second," Reid said. "They are doing this to promote issues that make themselves even richer."

"Why not level the playing field for everyone. Let's get this money out of our political system. Let's undo the damage done by the citizens united decision. Let's do it now," the Democrat from Nevada added.

Republicans were quick to fire back at Reid's move.

"Today's proposal by the Senate Majority Leader represents an all-out assault on the right to free speech, a right which undergirds all others in our democracy. It's also a clear sign of just how desperate elected Washington Democrats have become in their quest to hold onto power," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.

"Proposing to take away this fundamental right from the American people and vest it in the federal government instead is the ultimate act of radicalism, and it should concern all Americans who care about their right to speak their minds and to participate freely in the political process," added the five-term senator from Kentucky who faces a tough-election of his own this year.

Reid's comments on Capitol Hill came at the same time that American Bridge, a pro-Democratic outside group that concentrates on opposition research against Republicans and defends Democrats, announced a new research and rapid-response project aimed at the Koch brothers.

While Democrats point to the Koch brothers as the poster boys for what they term out-of-control outside spending, Republicans point to Tom Steyer, the wealthy hedge fund manager, philanthropist, and environmentalist, who has bankrolled many Democratic outside efforts.

At play is control of the Senate. The Democrats hold a 55-45 majority in the chamber (including two independents who caucus with the party). But the party's defending 21 of the 36 seats in play in this November's midterm elections, with half of those Democratic-held seats in red or purple states.

Complete Coverage: 2014 Midterm Elections

Americans for Prosperity has already spent around 25 million to attack Democrats and support Republicans in key Senate races so far this cycle. The biggest pro-Democratic spending outside group, Senate Majority PAC, has shelled out $11.1 million.

While the constitutional amendment faces all-but-certain defeat on the Senate floor, Democrats believe public opinion is on their side, and that the efforts to push the amendment could motivate their base, which is crucial in traditionally low-turnout midterm contests.

Reid first signaled his support of the Udall-Bennet amendment in a BuzzFeed report Wednesday.

The issue of campaign spending was also in the Supreme Court's spotlight earlier this spring. A 5-4 ruling last month by the justices eliminated limits on how much money individuals can donate in total in one election season.

However, the decision left intact the current $5,200 limit on how much an individual can give to any single candidate during a two-year election cycle. Until now, an individual donor could give up to $123,200 per cycle.

The ruling means a wealthy donor can give as much money as desired to federal election candidates across the country, as long as no candidate receives more than the $5,200 cap.

 


Filed under: 2014 • Campaign finance • Citizens United • Harry Reid • Senate
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Tampa Tim

    According to RWNJs, corporations are people, and money is free speech.

    May 15, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  2. Silence DoGood

    The big difference is that the Koch money hides behind phony organizations. Liberal rich folks often give money for clear programs like the environment for example or to fight climate change. You might not agree but it is right out there.

    When low information voters see "Americans for Prosperity" they actually think it is a conservative group of Americans that are for prosperity. NO. It is the Kochs promoting their corporations.

    May 15, 2014 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  3. Dumbas[R]ocks

    Yes, the money=speech crowd will defend their billionaires' rights to buy [R]s into office.....while crying libertarian crocodile tears over the loss of freedom for the rest of us. Their partisan HYPOCRISY is stunning.

    Why do [R]s today hate America? There was a time that they didn't, but you now have to go to history books to learn about it.

    May 15, 2014 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  4. O'drama ya Mama

    This is something every American should agree on. We are seeing our country turn into a place where the loudest voices are the ones with the most money. If the trend continues elections will be nothing but a sham to make the citizens feel "included". At the moment all sides are using this tactic to win elections. Theres no reason to point fingers, this is all of our problem.

    May 15, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  5. Donna

    Why do the Democrats want to stifle and control free speech? Let the PEOPLE decide who and what they believe. We don't need our government controlling this in any way. Wasn't it enough for these progressive/socialist/communists in the Democrat Party to take over and wreck our healthcare system with Obamacare? Now they want to restrict our rights to participate in campaigns and communicate our opinions and solutions? Demorcats are the greatest danger to this country and your personal freedom EVER.

    May 15, 2014 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  6. much thunder...little rain

    no one should change senate rules ... or no one should not allow a vote on keystone....or have presidents fly all over america raising money for there party...its b s and you know it harry

    May 15, 2014 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  7. Hector Slagg

    Humm,
    Didn't the Supreme Court just rule on this? Pigs will fly before the people curb Free Speech. That's basically what we are talking about. It would appear that the Current Administration isn't exactly happy about things being exposed that weren't supposed to be revealed. The people are more than capable of separating the WHEAT FROM THE CHAFF even sometimes they get it wrong.

    I guess it is more fun to talk about restricting free speech than voting to Repeal Obama Care.

    May 15, 2014 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  8. Rick McDaniel

    Reid is so totally dishonest, he is simply a joke. The Dems raise way MORE money to spend on political campaigns than any other group........and I mean ANY other group.

    May 15, 2014 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  9. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA - Take Back the House

    Get money out of politics! 1 person, 1 vote. And corporations are not people my friend.

    May 15, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  10. Thomas

    When we talk about creating jobs , were not talking about the need for more lobbyists and campaign circus promoters.

    Stop wasteful spending from the top down , cut the head off of campaign spending !

    May 15, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  11. Silence DoGood

    Let's see who comes out for or against this. I am willing to let go some liberal progressive rich donations in exchange for making folks like the Kochs be limited in their ability to buy influence with no responsibility.

    We should all be very suspect of those who fight this.

    May 15, 2014 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC

    Sen. Reid has a point.
    Recent decisions by the SCOTUS have allowed money to become the third major political party in America.

    May 15, 2014 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  13. ProudDem

    We cannot allow this to go on. The rich have always been somewhat in control, but they were at least kept in check by public perception. If they can buy elections outright, there is nothing to stop them. It's not just elections either. Do you think Americans for Prosperity have been lobbying against clean energy in state after state because they care about we the people? Nonsense. They are funded by a couple of billionaires who are in fossil fuels.

    May 15, 2014 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  14. Tommy G

    "Why not level the playing field for everyone. Let's get this money out of our political system. Let's undo the damage done by the citizens united decision. Let's do it now," the Democrat from Nevada added.
    --

    As Obama flies off to hundreds of campaign fund raisers over the last 6 years, all on our dime.

    Obama stated he would accept public funding of his campaign in 2008 and then didn't do it, raising records amount of money. Why don't the Democrats show they can walk the walk they want to force of people?

    May 15, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  15. Tony D

    According to leftwing communist Democrats, corporations are their private piggy banks to be raided whenever they need money. They are evil entitities that must be regulated to death and destroyed if necessary.

    And then they wonder why there are no jobs for people.

    Actually, corporations are legal entitiies that do exist, and have rights, and pay taxes, and are subject to laws, and have interests to protect from an overbearing government and the leftists that hate them. They employ hundreds of millions of people who also pay taxes and provide for their families. I guess the leftist Democrats think that is a bad thing and should be the responsibility of the government.

    May 15, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  16. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    Dear bloggers: we are an oligarchy. I thought y'all knew. . .

    Yawn.

    May 15, 2014 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  17. Harry Palms Reid

    Senate Minority Leader Reid.... Get used to it...

    May 15, 2014 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  18. it must be said

    This is just more smoke and mirror distraction by the Democrats before the November election. The Democrats sure don't want to ttalk about their Obamacare lies, the record high unemployment rate after 6 years of Obama, the stagnant economy, our plummeting prestige and power around the world.

    Nope, the pressing issue is suppress the ability for the American people to talk about any of that.

    I guess the Obama adminstration using the IRS to suppress, harrass and intimidate the American people just wasn't enough for them.

    May 15, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  19. just asking

    so would the new freedom of speech czar be people like sniffit, rudy nyc, tampa tim??? oh yeah, sounds great!

    conform or be jailed!! we now see the new vision of the democrat party for america. it looks exactly like north korea today. tow the line for kim jung obama or face the consequences.

    May 15, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    "As Obama flies off to hundreds of campaign fund raisers over the last 6 years, all on our dime."

    As every POTUS has. Want it to stop? Get money out of politics by helping overrule the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions. Your blather trying to make it sound like Obama is the only POTUS ever to fundraise is complete and utter NONSENSE. And nobody but you and your fellow RWNJs cares about the public funding thing. NOBODY. Fair is fair. If one side is going to wrap itself in giant dark money donations, then the other side is gong to do it too. The only way to stop it is to stop it for EVERYONE.

    May 15, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  21. SOUTHERN SNOTTIE

    SOUTHERN HOTTIE
    Dear bloggers: we are an oligarchy. I thought y'all knew. . .
    -–

    We are FAR closer to a leftist dictatorship than we are an oligarchy.

    May 15, 2014 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  22. Silence DoGood

    @Donna
    Why do the Democrats want to stifle and control free speech? Let the PEOPLE decide who and what they believe. We don't need our government controlling this in any way. ....
    -------–
    So is there no limits to your morality on this? The Kochs do their "free speech" with money in deceptive ads. What if the next guy doesn't have money but he is a union leader telling his members to vote a certain way. Are you OK with that? You must be because he is just exercising his "free speech". How about if I go out a sign up new voters that I think will only vote liberal. "free speech" right?

    May 15, 2014 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  23. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    So does freedom of speech also mean freedom from the responsibility from such "speech"? How come the big proponents of voter ID seem to be such stanch opponents of identifying WHO donates to political candidates and causes?

    May 15, 2014 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  24. Warren

    Donna
    Why do the Democrats want to stifle and control free speech? Let the PEOPLE decide who and what they believe. We don't need our government controlling this in any way. Wasn't it enough for these progressive/socialist/communists in the Democrat Party to take over and wreck our healthcare system with Obamacare? Now they want to restrict our rights to participate in campaigns and communicate our opinions and solutions? Demorcats are the greatest danger to this country and your personal freedom EVER.

    So what your are saying is free speech has a price??

    May 15, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  25. Lynda/Minnesota

    "The measure would curb unlimited campaign spending by giving Congress the authority to regulate raising and spending limits for federal elections."

    Giving Congress the authority to regulate themselves? That'll work.

    /sarcasm

    May 15, 2014 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
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