Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Friday scheduled a Sept. 8 procedural vote on a constitutional amendment to limit the amount of money that can be donated to campaigns, a measure that's likely more about curbing donations to conservative candidates than it is about about cleaning up politics.
Think about it: Just before Senate business ended Friday, with roughly 100 lawmakers skipping town to return to their home districts for the five-week August recess, Reid filed cloture on a motion to proceed with S.J. Res. 19, which seeks to undo the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision that ruled the federal government cannot restrict political contributions from unions and corporations.
The Supreme Court said in its decision that political contributions are protected under the First Amendment.
However, the proposed amendment, which was authored by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., not only gives Congress the power to limit spending on federal candidates, but it also bars the judicial branch from overturning any future campaign finance laws authored by legislative branch.
“This partisan effort to weaken the First Amendment is the clearest proof yet of how out of touch the Democrat Majority has become from the needs and concerns of ordinary Americans and how ill-equipped they are to lead in these challenging times,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said after the motion was filed. “Washington Democrats have forgotten that the First Amendment is meant to empower the people, not the government.”
The Kentucky senator continued, accusing his Democratic colleagues of staging a cheap political stunt ahead of the November midterm elections.
“This latest Democrat effort to abridge political speech is little more than a craven attempt to substitute the incumbent-protection desires of Washington Democrats for a fundamental right that the Constitution guarantees to all Americans,” McConnell said.
It's rather remarkable, really, that with all the problems currently facing the nation, Reid moved to ensure that the Senate's first order of business when it returns in September will be to debate amending the First Amendment.
This is the issue that he wants to address first thing?
Obviously, we know why Reid and his allies are so keen to see a measure like S.J. Res. 19 passed: They hate the fact that Supreme Court rulings have made it easier for the opposition party to raise cash, and they hate that it has become easier for conservative donors to remain anonymous from Democratic operatives.
As I've written before, Democratic-aligned political action committees have in recent years raised more cash than Republican PACs.
“[T]he largest Democratic-aligned super PACs had raised $82 million so far this election cycle, compared to just $47 million for the largest Republican-affiliated super PACs,” the Washington Examiner's David M. Drucker reported, citing the Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, however, nonprofit groups that support GOP policies have solicited more donations than nonprofit groups that support left-leaning policies. In fact, Drucker added, nonprofit groups that support Republican policy positions “have had no problem raising money this cycle, and are in fact doing better than their Democratic counterparts.”
There’s a good reason for the difference between GOP PACs and supportive nonprofit groups: The GOP’s donors are trying to remain anonymous.
Super PACs are required under law to disclose their donors, while nonprofit 501(c)(4) organizations are not. So, for a conservative who would rather avoid being targeted by a supposed “low-level IRS employee in Cincinnati,” donating to a nonprofit makes more sense than donating to a PAC.
Luckily, for supporters of the Supreme Court's ruling on political donations, Reid's gambit likely won't make it out of the Senate.
“The amendment is certain to fail in the Senate because Republicans generally support the high court’s decisions in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and McCutcheon v. FEC, arguing they removed limits on free speech,” the Hill reported. “The amendment would need to be passed by two-thirds of the Senate and the House and then be ratified by three quarters of the states.”
In short, it appears McConnell is correct: The measure is a cheap stunt designed to make it appear that Democratic lawmakers just hate the fact that big money has made it's way into politics.
But don't be fooled.
Again, as I've previously noted: Democrats don’t have a problem with money in politics. They certainly don’t have a problem with donors writing them the “fattest” checks. The president has perfected the art of fundraising, and labor unions have long poured mountains of cash into Democratic campaigns.
Democrats merely hate the fact that certain nonprofit groups have made it more difficult to target conservative donors. For Democrats, money in politics isn’t the problem. Being denied a comprehensive enemies list is.
The vote is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 8.