Senators Al Franken, Amy Klobuchar push to limit corporate campaign donations
Minnesota senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar
Next month, a constitutional amendment that would allow states and the federal government to put caps on corporate campaign donations is expected to come up for a vote in the Senate. It has the support of both Al Franken and was hailed by Amy Klobuchar earlier this summer as a way "to restore the right of individual Americans to have their voices heard" over special interests.
If approved, it would overturn the precedents set by two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions -- Citizens United v. F.E.C. and McCutcheon v. F.E.C. -- that allow corporations to spend a limitless amounts of cash to get pols elected. But by all accounts, the Senate amendment -- and its companion in the House -- is also, at least for now, a hopeless cause.
Support and opposition for the bills falls squarely along partisan lines. Many in the GOP consider the amendment an attack on free speech and accuse the Dems of hypocrisy. Devin Henry of MinnPost noted in July that "Republicans have called it an election year ploy -- a bill with no chance of passage meant to force them into voting for something potentially politically popular -- and they've strongly opposed the bill."
It wasn't always this way. In a recent piece for the New Yorker, Jill Lepore, a Harvard historian, noted that regulating the flow of money into politics has long been a bipartisan issue. In 1905, President Teddy Roosevelt said, "All contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose should be forbidden by law." Two years later, Congress passed the first federal law to ban corporate political donations. However, the regulatory system put in place began to unravel in the 1970s through the courts.
Also in September, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan is planning to roll out details for a more comprehensive package of campaign finance reforms. He's calling, among other things, for a shorter campaign season and the prohibition of fundraising while pols are in session. According to MapLight, a nonpartisan research organization, the average House member raised $2,315 a day while the average Senator raised $14,351 between 2011 and 2012.
"The work of Congress suffers because of it," says Steve Johnson, Nolan's communications director. "It frustrates people regardless of the political party."
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