On the heels of a new poll that shows 70 percent of Americans think Super PACs should be outlawed, Colorado Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet has joined a task force to craft a new legislative response to blunt the impact from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision allowing corporations and anonymous special interests to spend unlimited sums to influence elections.
Along with Bennet, the task force includes Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island), Tom Udall (New Mexico), Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire), Jeff Merkley (Oregon), and Al Franken (Minnesota). Senator Charles E. Schumer (New York), chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, formed the group late last year.
Bennet said in a press release that the group will “pursue all available legislative and administrative avenues to shine a light on who is influencing American elections and to stem the tide of secretive spending that is already having a corroding and corrupting influence on our political system.”
“The Supreme Court reversed itself and decades of precedent with its Citizens United ruling. Now, Coloradans and Americans are being inundated with attack ads, Super PACs skirt accountability and the presidency might well be determined by a silent auction,” said Bennet. “This group is committed to improving transparency in our campaigns and restoring the faith Americans have in our elections.”
Bennet has been involved in this issue virtually since the Supreme Court decision. He and Udall have proposed a constitutional amendment to give Congress and the states the power to regulate campaign finance.
“The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has subjected the American people to a flood of unlimited, anonymous corporate money in our elections. The Rhode Islanders I’ve heard from know that corporations aren’t people and that this is wrong,” said Whitehouse. “With my colleagues, we are working to put the power over elections back into the hands of the people, so that our government continues to be of, by and for the people, not the giant corporations.”
“The unchecked flow of money into our elections corrodes our democracy and drowns out the voice of the people,” said Udall. “Over the past few months, the unfair influence exerted by Super PACs has become abundantly clear to voters in New Mexico and elsewhere, and they are calling for sensible campaign finance reform.”
“The simple, genius idea of American democracy is that the people are in charge,” said Merkley. “President Lincoln described our government as ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people.’ Citizens United stands for the opposite. It changes ‘We the People’ to ‘We the Powerful’. It gives the wealthy and well-connected a stadium sound system, drowning out the voice of the people. We must restore the people’s voice and put an end to unlimited, undisclosed spending by corporations.”
“Americans deserve fair and transparent elections,” said Franken. “Making sure that every American knows who is funding the election ads they see and hear is even more important now that the Supreme Court has allowed companies to contribute unlimited amounts of corporate cash to influence elections.”
“We believe that the unlimited cash allowed by the Citizens United decision must at least be disclosed,” said Schumer. “The Supreme Court’s decision has given corporations and the very wealthy unprecedented sway over our elections, and represents one of the most serious threats to the future of our democracy. This group will fight back with every tool at its disposal.”
So far this year, almost $90 million has been spent by outside groups, many of which are able to raise funds anonymously, from corporations, and in unlimited quantities, the senators said.
Small image of Sen. Michael Bennet courtesy of Sen. Michael Bennet.