Senator Donnelly: ‘Unprecedented’ Campaign Spending ‘Obscuring’ Candidates in US Elections


Senator Joe Donnelly has come out in support of a constitutional amendment that seeks to curtail the massive amounts of campaign spending that now dominate federal elections in the United States.

“I am concerned about how recent Supreme Court decisions, including Citizens United, are impacting our elections and electoral process,” Donnelly said. “In the wake of these decisions, unprecedented spending by special interest groups is obscuring and overshadowing what should matter most in elections: the candidates’ ideas and positions on the issues.”

The Federal Election Commission estimates that $7 billion was spent on all races during the 2012 presidential cycle. That’s more than double from where it was as recently as 2000.

The 2016 presidential cycle is shaping up to be even more expensive. It is now a given that a successful presidential candidate will need to raise around $1 billion on their own. The total balloons much higher when you add spending from parties, outside political action committees and Super PACs.

The Koch brothers recently made headlines when they announced that they and a small group of mega-donors have committed to spend nearly $900 million in the 2016 campaign cycle through a web of Koch-backed Super PACs.

Charles and David Koch are two of the wealthiest men on the planet with a net worth that exceeds that of the world’s richest man, Bill Gates. The Koch’s political apparatus — funded with money from their industrial fortune — rivals that of a national political party.

Senate Joint Resolution 5, which Donnelly backs, seeks to stop the onslaught of outside campaign cash.

“I am proud to support this constitutional amendment, which would help bring transparency to our elections, restore confidence in our democracy, and ensure Hoosiers’ voices are not drowned out by special interest groups funded by anonymous donors. I hope that Congress will debate and pass this important amendment,” Donnelly says.

The proposed constitutional amendment would overturn Citizens United, a 5 to 4 Supreme Court decision from 2010 that threw out parts of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms, opening the door to unlimited campaign spending from corporations and labor unions. A previous Supreme Court decision from the 1970s, Buckley v. Valeo, struck down limits on independent expenditures from individuals and outside groups.

The proposed amendment, introduced by Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, would allow Congress to reform the current campaign finance system. It would allow Congress and state legislatures to place “reasonable” limits on the raising and spending of campaign cash.

The amendment, which is only three paragraphs long, reads in full:

Section 1. To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.

Section 2. Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.

Section 3. Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.

Donnelly’s backing brings the number of co-sponsors in the Senate to 38. The proposed amendment needs two-thirds support of both chambers of Congress to become law. It must also be ratified by three-fourths of the states.

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