Congressional Findings in HR-1 - The Case for Campaign Finance Reform
March 28, 2019
SEC. 5001. FINDINGS RELATING TO CITIZENS UNITED DECISION.
Congress finds the following:
(1) The American Republic was founded on the principle that all people are created equal, with rights and responsibilities as citizens to vote, be represented, speak, debate, and participate in self-government on equal terms regardless of wealth. To secure these rights and responsibilities, our Constitution not only protects the equal rights of all Americans but also provides checks and balances to prevent corruption and prevent concentrated power and wealth from undermining effective self-government.
(2) The Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010) and McCutcheon v. FEC, 572 U.S. 185 (2014), as well as other court decisions, erroneously invalidated even-handed rules about the spending of money in local, State, and Federal elections. These flawed decisions have empowered large corporations, extremely wealthy individuals, and special interests to dominate election spending, corrupt our politics, and degrade our democracy through tidal waves of unlimited and anonymous spending. These decisions also stand in contrast to a long history of efforts by Congress and the States to regulate money in politics to protect democracy, and they illustrate a troubling deregulatory trend in campaign finance-related court decisions. Additionally, an unknown amount of foreign money continues to be spent in our political system as subsidiaries of foreign-based corporations and hostile foreign actors sometimes connected to nation-States work to influence our elections.
(3) The Supreme Court’s misinterpretation of the Constitution to empower monied interests at the expense of the American people in elections has seriously eroded over 100 years of congressional action to promote fairness and protect elections from the toxic influence of money.
(4) In 1907, Congress passed the Tillman Act in response to the concentration of corporate power in the post-Civil War Gilded Age. The Act prohibited corporations from making contributions in connection with Federal elections, aiming “not merely to prevent the subversion of the integrity of the electoral process [but] * * * to sustain the active, alert responsibility of the individual citizen in a democracy for the wise conduct of government”.
(5) By 1910, Congress began passing disclosure requirements and campaign expenditure limits, and dozens of States passed corrupt practices Acts to prohibit corporate spending in elections. States also enacted campaign spending limits, and some States limited the amount that people could contribute to campaigns.
(6) In 1947, the Taft-Hartley Act prohibited corporations and unions from making campaign contributions or other expenditures to influence elections. In 1962, a Presidential commission on election spending recommended spending limits and incentives to increase small contributions from more people.
(7) The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA), as amended in 1974, required disclosure of contributions and expenditures, imposed contribution and expenditure limits for individuals and groups, set spending limits for campaigns, candidates, and groups, implemented a public funding system for Presidential campaigns, and created the Federal Election Commission to oversee and enforce the new rules.
(8) In the wake of Citizens United and other damaging Federal court decisions, Americans have witnessed an explosion of outside spending in elections. Outside spending increased nearly 900 percent between the 2008 and 2016 Presidential election years. Indeed, the 2018 elections once again made clear the overwhelming political power of wealthy special interests, to the tune of over $5,000,000,000. And as political entities adapt to a post-Citizens United, post-McCutcheon landscape, these trends are getting worse, as evidenced by the experience in the 2018 midterm congressional elections, where outside spending more than doubled from the previous midterm cycle.
(9) The torrent of money flowing into our political system has a profound effect on the democratic process for everyday Americans, whose voices and policy preferences are increasingly being drowned out by those of wealthy special interests. The more campaign cash from wealthy special interests can flood our elections, the more policies that favor those interests are reflected in the national political agenda. When it comes to policy preferences, our Nation’s wealthiest tend to have fundamentally different views than do average Americans when it comes to issues ranging from unemployment benefits to the minimum wage to health care coverage.
(10) The Court has tied the hands of Congress and the States, severely restricting them from setting reasonable limits on campaign spending. For example, the Court has held that only the Government’s interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption, like bribery, or the appearance of such corruption, can justify limits on campaign contributions. More broadly, the Court has severely curtailed attempts to reduce the ability of the Nation’s wealthiest and most powerful to skew our democracy in their favor by buying outsized influence in our elections. Because this distortion of the Constitution has prevented truly meaningful regulation or reform of the way we finance elections in America, a constitutional amendment is needed to achieve a democracy for all the people.
(11) Since the landmark Citizens United decision, 19 States and nearly 800 municipalities, including large cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia, have gone on record supporting a constitutional amendment. Transcending political leanings and geographic location, voters in States and municipalities across the country that have placed amendment questions on the ballot have routinely supported these initiatives by considerably large margins.
(12) At the same time millions of Americans have signed petitions, marched, called their Members of Congress, written letters to the editor, and otherwise demonstrated their public support for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United that will allow Congress to reign in the outsized influence of unchecked money in politics. Dozens of organizations, representing tens of millions of individuals, have come together in a shared strategy of supporting such an amendment.
(13) In order to protect the integrity of democracy and the electoral process and to ensure political equality for all, the Constitution should be amended so that Congress and the States may regulate and set limits on the raising and spending of money to influence elections and may distinguish between natural persons and artificial entities, like corporations, that are created by law, including by prohibiting such artificial entities from spending money to influence elections.”