"A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to contributions and expenditures intended to affect elections."  Text of the proposed amendment:  https://scout.sunlightfoundation.com/item/bill/sjres19-113

I have read http://www.lwv.org/content/campaign-finance  but I'm not sure how to apply it in this situation.  I think a lot of League members are assuming support. 

Personally, I find one phrase worrisome:  "the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates." - my emphasis.  As I read it, this is a direct response to the Citizens United case where an organization made a movie in opposition to a candidate but did not fund a candidate's campaign directly.  It seems to me that the phrase could be used to suppress the equivalent of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 just as easily as the Citizens United film.  On the other hand, it may be that both would be protected by the other statement, "Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press." 

Can you give any guidance? 




LWV needs a position on SJ Res 19.

The film produced by Citizens United, a PAC, on Hilary Clinton was not considered either editorial material or a “commercial enterprise” by the FEC because it was produced through political contributions, not capital.  As a political advertisement it would not be protected by the Constitution’s article protecting the "freedom of the press”. 

Fahrenheit 9/11, on the other hand, was produced as a commercial enterprise and so was not subject to FEC rules. 

Citizens United produced the film in order to directly challenge the Bipartisan Campaign Act’s rules limiting outside advertising within 30-60 days before an election (primary-general). Had the film been shown prior to the time limitations, there would have been no objection by the FEC. 

The Bipartisan Campaign Act (or McCain-Feingold) was enacted to counteract the growing problem of negative advertising from outside organizations (not affiliated with a candidate or party) immediately before an election – a growing trend that accelerated as a result of a growing number of Supreme Court decisions deregulating campaign expenditures.

The Udall Amendment language restores Congress’ right to regulate the rules governing the collecting and spending of money in elections, as was the case during most of the 20th century.  However, since the1980’s the Supreme Court has continuously pressed to deregulate contributions and expenditures by equating money as speech and defanging or directly overturning nearly all the rules of the Federal Election Campaign Act of the 1970’s. 

This has brought our democracy (where representative government has a better chance to work for the whole of society) to its knees.  Today, those with money (corporate or personal) have an outsized influence on government which perpetuates their interests at the expense of the greater society. 

The balance of voices must be restored.  The LWV must support a greater spectrum of reforms - including the amendment process - to create the pressure needed to force government to respond to the accelerating growth of inequality in our society.  

Becky Shannon








The League could support SJ Res 19

While the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC is getting a lot of attention these days, the “original sin” of the Court was its 1976 ruling in Buckley v. Valeo.  In that ruling, the Court declared that the expenditure of money is a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.  ALL of the subsequent defeats for attempts to regulate money in politics have been based on this ruling, including Citizens United.  So (correctly in my opinion) it is that ruling that the Udall amendment addresses. 

Section 1 of the proposed amendment states that “Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.”  That is, Congress and the States may regulate not only contributions but also EXPENDITURES, which is what Buckley v. Valeo declared unconstitutional.  Section 1 thus expressly removes campaign spending from the domain of the First Amendment.

For a really nice review of the ways in which the Supreme Court erred in Buckley v. Valeo, read the letter sent to the Senate last week by six former leaders of the ACLU, which you can find at http://www.commoncause.org/policy-and-litigation/letters-to-government-officials/National_090414_Civil_Rights_Experts-Letter-Amend.pdf.  See especially the third page.

Once the connection between campaign finance and the First Amendment has been severed by Section 1 of the proposed amendment, Section 2 merely reaffirms the established practice of writing different laws and regulation for natural vs. juridical persons, in this case in the area of campaign finance.  Section 2 has nothing to do with “corporate personhood”, on which the League has no position.  (“Corporate personhood” has a legal history that stretches back to the late 19th century.  A League study of the issue would certainly be in order and highly educational, but might not result in a useful position.)

Section 3 of the Udall amendment, saying that the amendment may not be interpreted to abridge freedom of the press, is currently attached to most proposed amendments dealing with this issue.  There are several proposed amendments before the 113th Congress, but the Udall amendment is the most carefully constructed and the only one enjoying serious support.

I personally would like the LWVUS to support the amendment, but I am afraid that members who are assuming that such support will be forthcoming have not read the national leadership’s many statements refusing to take a stand.

Katherine Campbell