Campaign spending up for vote in Washington


By Mary Kuhlman

Advocates for campaign finance reform say the U.S. Senate is expected to make an historic vote today on Senate Joint Resolution 19.

That's the proposed constitutional amendment that would give Congress and the states control of political campaign spending limits.

Julia Vaughn, policy director at Common Cause Indiana, says passage of the resolution is unlikely given that it needs two-thirds support, or 67 votes, to pass.

But she says broad political support is an important symbolic victory in what will likely be a long-term political effort to get big money out of politics.

"We could very well lose the representative democracy that has served our country well for a long time," she stresses. "We're flipping really close to a government of and by the elite. And Americans are not willing to let our democracy go without a fight."

U.S. Supreme Court rulings - in Buckley versus Valeo in the 1970s and the more recent Citizens United and McCutcheon cases - have determined that spending money on elections is a form of speech or opinion, making campaign contributions, not simply campaign messages, a First Amendment issue.

Indiana's U.S. senators have not signed onto the legislation.

Vaughn says the matter of big money in politics goes against core American beliefs and she says it's hit a nerve with Hoosiers from all political backgrounds.

"There is this sense of personal offense by the Supreme Court saying that a corporation has the same rights as me or that the billionaire has more rights than I do."

Passage of a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote in Congress, and support from three-quarters, or 38, of the states.


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