#AceNewsServices – WASHINGTON – September 29 – Senate Democrats at a press conference on September 09 unveiled a constitutional amendment designed to alter First Amendment freedoms argued that their effort is both non-partisan and absolutely essential to advance the agenda of the Democratic Party.
“We are here today to overturn Citizens United,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D., N.M.), the amendment’s author.
‘ US Citizens United ‘
However, the language of the amendment does not specifically address Citizens United, and would not require Congress to address the issues raised in the case.
Rather, legislators would be given free rein to enact restrictions on political speech as they see fit. Given efforts by Reid and others to demonize Republican donors, conservatives voiced concerns about the consequences of campaign finance regulators uninhibited by any constitutional limitations.
Speakers claimed that even a majority of Republican voters support their proposal. However, they also stressed that campaign finance reform, and Udall’s amendment specifically, is a prerequisite for the advancement of key Democratic policy priorities, including a minimum wage hike, stringent environmental regulations, and income redistribution.
“If people think this is some kind of esoteric issue, not related to jobs and the economy and wages and women’s rights and income and wealth inequality and healthcare and global warming, you are deadly wrong,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), one of the amendment’s cosponsors.
Sanders and others at the event billed the measure as an attempt to roll back the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which removed limits on electioneering and express advocacy communications. However, the constitutional amendment’s language is far more sweeping, leading some to suggest that the ruling is being used as a way to rally support for far stricter regulations on political speech.
Merely rolling back Citizens United would not affect many of the groups frequently demonized by Democratic campaign finance reformers.
‘ Americans for Prosperity ‘
Americans for Prosperity, for example, has engaged this cycle almost exclusively in issue ads, not electioneering communications or express advocacy.
Such groups were permitted to do the same even prior to the Citizens United ruling, explained campaign finance attorney Jason Torchinsky.
“What non-PAC groups have done with issue ads outside the 30/60 day windows this cycle weren’t impacted by Citizens United,” Torchinsky said in an email. “Non-PAC groups were airing issue ads before [Citizens United] was decided, and if it were repealed or reversed groups would continue to do issue ads and speak out about matters of public policy.”
The language of the amendment would empower Congress to “regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.”
If enacted, the amendment would allow Congress to regulate any expenditure—even those made by individual voters—aimed at convincing others to vote a certain way. Because in-kind spending is considered an expenditure under federal law, any activity by any person designed to “influence elections” could fall under Congress’ purview.
Opponents of the constitutional amendment say that amounts to nothing short of the de facto repeal of the First Amendment.