The Washington Post

Dems threaten Kochs with a constitutional amendment

David Koch (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File) David Koch (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

Congressional Democrats escalated their fight against the Koch Brothers and other megadonors to political campaigns on Thursday, calling anew for a constitutional amendment to reverse recent Supreme Court campaign-finance decisions and setting a date for a hearing.

Majority Leader Harry Reid announced plans Thursday to hold floor votes on legislation that would “grant Congress the authority to regulate and limit the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns.”

The idea was blasted immediately by Republicans, underlining how unlikely it is that the proposal could succeed. The amendment idea was first introduced by Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico.  After Reid’s announcement, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont announced there would be a hearing on the legislation on June 3.

The announcements follows the court’s  recent McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission decision, which declared aggregate limits on campaign contributions in elections to be unconstitutional in violation of the First Amendment. Coupled with the Citizens United decision of 2010, Leahy and Reid said Congress must respond.

“The Court has repeatedly used the First Amendment – not to protect the voices of all Americans, but as an instrument to amplify the voices of billionaires and corporations,” Leahy said in a statement Thursday. “Those voices are not the only ones who the Founding Fathers intended the First Amendment to protect.  They meant for the First Amendment to protect the voices of all Americans.”

The constitutional amendment seems more of a partisan show than a realistic proposal. A hearing on the idea last month revealed how deep the partisan divide has become since the days when a Republican senator, John McCain of Arizona, teamed up with a Democrat, former Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, to propose broad campaign finance reforms.

The reaction to the amendment idea in a recent Senate Rules Committee hearing revealed the depth of the partisan divide. In a statement released Thursday, Senate’s Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the Democrats' proposal “an all-out assault on the right to free speech, a right which undergirds all others in our democracy. It’s also a clear sign of just how desperate elected Washington Democrats have become in their quest to hold onto power.”

Tom Hamburger covers the intersection of money and politics for The Washington Post.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Republicans debate Saturday night. The New Hampshire primary is on Feb. 9. Get caught up on the race.
Heading into the next debate...
Donald Trump returns to the Republican presidential debate stage Saturday night. Marco Rubio arrives as a sudden star, but fending off ferocious attacks from his rivals. Still glowing from his Iowa victory, Ted Cruz is trying to consolidate conservative support, while Ben Carson is struggling to avoid being typecast as the dead man walking.
Play Video
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote.
New Hampshire polling averages
Polling in New Hampshire has typically been volatile after Iowa's caucuses, but Bernie Sanders, from its neighboring state Vermont, has been holding a lead over Hillary Clinton.
55% 38%
Play Video
Upcoming debates
Feb. 6: GOP debate

on ABC News, in Manchester, N.H.

Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.