Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid announced today that Democrats are about mount an effort to amend the constitution to get the Koch brothers and other billionaires out of our politics.
Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) asked the big question, “Let me pose a question to everyone, including my friend the Republican Leader. If this unprecedented spending is free speech, where does that leave our middle-class constituents? The poor? It leaves them out in the cold. How could everyday working families afford to make their voices heard if money equals free speech?”
After describing how the Koch brothers are trying to reshape the Republican Party, and buy democracy, Reid said:
Elections in the United States should be decided by voters, Americans who have a constitutional, fundamental right to elect their representatives. Yet, more and more we see non-voters, like Koch Industries and Americans for Prosperity, dictating the results of primaries and elections across the country. Behind these non-voting organizations are the massively wealthy men and women, hoping for a big monetary return on their political donations. When the candidates they bankroll get into office, the winners inevitably begin to legislate their sponsors’ business plans – less regulation and less oversight for corporations. Let me state this plainly for all to hear: No one should be able to pump unlimited funds into political campaigns, whether they are a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent.
As one political observer noted, we currently have a campaign finance system in place which compels each party to pick which billionaires they like best. That is exactly why the system needs to change. There’s no question the Koch brothers are in a category of their own, in both degree and kind. No one else is pumping as much money into shadowy campaigns to promote issues that make themselves richer. No other individuals are recreating the role of a national political party. I understand that some people may disagree with my assessment. So I say: why not level the playing field for everyone? Let’s get this money out of our political system. Let’s undo the damage done by the Citizens United decision. Let’s do it now.
The Supreme Court has equated money with speech, so the more money you have the more speech you get, and the more influence in our democracy. That is wrong. Every American should have the same ability to influence our political system. One American, one vote. That’s what the Constitution guarantees. The Constitution does not give corporations a vote. And the Constitution does not give dollar bills a vote. From what I’ve heard recently, my Republican colleagues seem to have a different view. Republicans seem to think that billionaires, corporations and special interests should be allowed to drown out the voices of Americans. That is wrong and it has to end.
I oppose the notion that a big bank account should give billionaires, corporations or special interest groups a greater place in government than American voters. That is why I support the constitutional amendment proposed by two Senate Democrats, Senators Tom Udall and Michael Bennet, that curbs unlimited campaign spending. This amendment grants Congress the authority to regulate and limit the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell responded to this modern day cry of one person, one vote by hysterically arguing that Democrats are out to destroy the First Amendment, “Proposing to take away this fundamental right from the American people and vest it in the federal government instead is the ultimate act of radicalism, and it should concern all Americans who care about their right to speak their minds and to participate freely in the political process. Washington Democrats have shown again and again how determined they are to shut down the voices of anyone who disagrees with them, whether it’s targeting groups through the IRS or looking over the shoulders of reporters at local newspapers and on news radio. But this latest proposal goes beyond everything they’ve attempted previously. No politician from either party is above the Constitution, and this crass attempt by Democrats to shut down any opposition to their plans should be rejected swiftly and decisively by everyone in this country who prizes the free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.”
The First Amendment does not give mega rich billionaires like the Koch brothers more free speech than other Americans. The problem with the Republican argument that money is speech is that it ignores all reality. Money is not speech. Money is money. The Koch brothers aren’t buying free speech. They are attempting to buy control over the democratic process.
Sen. Reid was correct. The playing field is not level. It isn’t a coincidence that as the floodgates have opened on unlimited contributions, Republicans in Congress have increasingly ignored the will of the people. Money is no longer just buying access. Those Koch dollars are elected representatives of the people.
Passing a new campaign finance law will not be enough. The Koch owned Supreme Court majority will find any law that regulates campaign contributions to be unconstitutional. The only way to be sure that the Koch brothers are removed from our elections is to amend the constitution.
Republicans are banking everything on the Koch brothers and their money. Republicans are scared, because if the people ever catch on, the Koch brothers will be gone.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association