A Democratic lawmaker is seeking to restore federal restrictions on campaign spending by corporations in a move that would render meaningless the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in Citizens United and deal a blow to super PACs.
U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts is proposing a pair of amendments to the U.S. Constitution that would allow for tougher campaign finance laws and overturn the court's controversial Citizens United ruling, which stated that the federal government cannot limit corporations - or, for that matter, unions, associations or individuals - from spending money to influence the outcome of elections.
"The American people are deeply troubled by the growing influence of corporations in our political discourse," McGovern said in announcing his proposed amendments. "They are also demanding action on campaign finance reform - because they are repulsed by the large amount of money in our campaigns. And, quite frankly, they want elected officials to spend more time on policy, on debating and deliberating on issues - and less time dialing for dollars."
McGovern acknowledged his proposals are unlikely to succeed. "It's a long shot," the lawmaker told The Republican/MassLive.com. "But we need to begin the movement so at a minimum this issue is being discussed."
McGovern's proposals are similar to President Barack Obama's call for consideration of a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United.
"Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn't revisit it)," Obama wrote in October 2012 during a question-and-answer chat on the website Reddit.com. "Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight on the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change."
A super PAC is a political-action committee that is allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions, individuals and associations. Some nonprofit groups are allowed to contribute to super PACs without disclosing where their money came from.
[Photo of U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts/U.S. Congress]