Democratic senators said Monday the Constitution must be amended, because people like Charles and David Koch must be stopped from flooding TV with negative ads Americans don’t want to see.
“A handful of super rich donors and giant corporations are now flooding our elections and determining entire narratives of closely contested races,” Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, said in a press conference Monday. “The American people are furious with the state of campaign finance in this country. They can’t stand the negative advertisements that are dominating the airways.”
Senator Amy Klobuchar agreed. “This Congress forgets what the people really care about,” she said. “They don’t want to see these ads. They don’t want to see this outside money.”
“These negative, poisonous, untruthful ads have just proliferated,” echoed Sen. Al Franken, and the American people “know this is wrong.”
The proposed amendment, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Tom Udall, would give Congress broad power to shape campaign finance laws. It would effectively overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC and 2014 ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC, which struck down laws restricting when corporations and unions can spend money on elections, and how much individuals can donate to candidates in a two-year period.
This is “the most important issue to Americans in years,” added Sen. Bernie Sanders. “If people think this is some kind of esoteric issue, not related to jobs, the economy, and wages, and women’s rights, and income and wealth inequality, and healthcare and global warming, you are deadly wrong.”
“Why do people like the Koch brother’s spend hundreds of millions of dollars?” he continued. “If you understand what they stand for, and that is to end, do away with social security, do away with medicare, do away with medicaid do away with the concept of the minimum wage, do away with the environmental protection agency — that is the struggle. They have an agenda.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse also pointed to the Koch Brothers as a reason for amending the Constitution, and accused them of coercing Republicans into giving up on climate change legislation. Before Citizens United, the Republicans had a candidate for president willing to have a climate change plan, he said, and brought a carbon regulations bill to the Senate floor. But now “the Koch brothers, the biggest polluters in this country have gotten together, and they’ve silenced them.”
“That is not adding to debate,” he continued. “That is not adding to democracy. That is the force of money, as bullying as coercion, as bribery, as influence peddling in all the wrong ways. It is not freedom of speech. It is not the first amendment.”
Republicans have criticized the proposed amendment as an attack on free speech at a time Democrats are afraid of losing their Senate majority. “The proposal they want to consider would empower incumbent politicians to write the rules on who gets to speak and who doesn’t,” Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell wrote in an op-ed Monday. “And while no one likes to be criticized, the way for Senate Democrats to avoid it is to make better arguments, or even better, to come up with better ideas — not shut up their constituents.”
Congress is scheduled to vote on the amendment Monday night, which has almost no chance of passing.