Wyden backs amendment to overturn Citizens United ruling

By Eric W. Dolan
Thursday, January 26, 2012 17:47 EDT
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Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) speaks at a goundbreaking event for a bridge project in his state on Aug. 11, 2009. Photo: Oregon Department of Transportation.
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Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) announced on Thursday that he was supporting a proposed constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling in Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission.

“Americans deserve to know the true interests behind the political ads they see and the campaigns of the candidates they choose to support,” Wyden said. “This is impossible in a system where unlimited sums of money can be anonymously raised and spent to support a candidate or derail a campaign.”

The proposed amendment was introduced to the Senate in November 2011 by Democratic Sens. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Michael Bennet of Colorado.

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court held that corporations have the same First Amendment rights as people, overturning campaign finance laws that restricted the amount of money a corporation could spend in an election.

The ruling gave rise to Super PACS, officially known as independent-expenditure only committees. These groups can raise an unlimited amount of money to influence federal elections, so long as they do not directly coordinate with a candidate’s campaign.

Super PACs quickly outpaced old-fashioned PACs, which can only accept annual donations of $5,000 or less and give a maximum of $5,000 per election to candidates and another $15,000 to political parties. Super PACs have also exploited a loophole that allows them to postpone the disclosure of their donors until after the elections they participate in.

“With the negative effects of the Supreme Court decision already becoming clear, a constitutional amendment is necessary to safeguard against the influence of big money and anonymous spending,” Wyden said.

The amendment would grant Congress and the states the authority to regulate the campaign finance system, but would not dictate any specific policies or regulations.

The proposed amendment, S.J. Res. 29, is currently co-sponsored by 19 Democratic senators as well as Independent Senator Bernie Sanders (VT), who has introduced his own more ambitious amendment.

A companion bill in the U.S. House, H.J. Res. 8, is co-sponsored by six Democrats.

Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan has served as an editor for Raw Story since August 2010, and is based out of Sacramento, California. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and received a Bachelor of Science from Bradley University. Eric is also the publisher and editor of PsyPost. You can follow him on Twitter @ewdolan.
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