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Activists asking Legislature to take a stand on controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on Jan. 17, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
January 17, 2013 6:10 pm

Getting a federal constitutional amendment passed is a tall order at best – if not a fool’s errand in some cases. But activists from a handful of groups worried about the influence of money in politics brought an estimated 12,000 petition signatures to the state Capitol Thursday, seeking legislative support for exactly such a federal campaign.

The activists gave their petitions to state Sen. Adam Kline, a Seattle Democrat who is introducing a bill that would ask Congress to draft the constitutional amendment for adoption by the states. Kline hasn’t dropped his bill into the hopper but he says his long-shot effort is meant to show support for congressional action that would give power back to states and Congress to regulate the role of money in politics.

He says that power was undermined by the U.S. Supreme Court’s much criticized 2010 decision in Citizens United.

Asked why he’d bother – given that even an Equal Rights Amendment for women failed to get ratified by two-thirds of the states – he said: “First you can’t bitch and moan about the uphill battle unless you fight it. I’m not going to complain (that) this couldn’t happen unless I have given everything I’ve got.”

Kline said his bill simply asks Congress to draft the language and put it out to the states for ratification. He indicated there are some Republicans who share his concern about the role of money in politics – particularly if the same limits were to apply to unions, businesses and tribes. But he declined to identify anyone who might sign onto his measure – known as a Senate Joint Memorial.

See an analysis of Citizens United here. Here is an excerpt from Kline’s bill:

WHEREAS, There has been a sudden and substantial increase in large financial contributions, in donations made and used anonymously, and in donations made to entities nominally separate from the candidates and outside their control to affect the state and federal elections in 2012, and such contributions may reasonably be expected to grow in number and size; and
WHEREAS, Expenditures that are extremely large, expenditures that are made anonymously, and expenditures made by entities nominally separate from and outside the control of individual candidates threaten the integrity of the election process by diluting the voices of other donors, distorting public discourse, and diminishing the constitutionally protected right to vote;
NOW, THEREFORE, Your Memorialists respectfully pray that the congress of the United States exercise the authority granted to it under Article V of the Constitution to pass and send to the several states for ratification an amendment to the Constitution to return to the congress and the legislatures of the states the authority to regulate the size and timing of contributions to election campaigns, whether made to candidates or to ballot measures, and whether such contributions are made directly to campaigns or to groups making independent expenditures related to such campaigns, and the authority to require timely public disclosure of the source and amount of all such contributions.

Despite the steep climb faced by activists, they are moving ahead around the country. “Move to Amend”groups have sprung up in several communities, and one in Olympia has asked the city council to support their effort. Other groups involved include Get Money Out of Politics, which grew out of the Occupy Seattle effort more than a year ago.

“We know it might never be passed but if we pass this resolution we’ll be joining the spirit of other states that have passed “ resolutions,” said GMOP activist Annie Phillips of Burien, who helped bring petitions to Kline. “It’s kind of a groundswell of the people’s desire to overturn Citizens United.”

Other groups in the WAMEND coalition include Washington Public Campaigns, Free Speech for People, FUSE, Island County Citizens Ignited Against Citizens United, Metropolitan Democratic Club, Move On-Seattle Council, Move to Amend, Public Citizen, and WashPIRG.

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