Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) today introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s ill-considered opinion in Citizen’s United, and other Supreme Court precedent which have made it impossible to regulate the billions in campaign spending unleashed over the last two decades. The amendment also overturns a Supreme Court decision – Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett – striking down an Arizona law which allowed public financing of a candidate if their opponent exceeded certain spending limits. In introducing the amendment – drafted by Constitutional Scholar Lawrence H. Tribe – Schiff said the following:
“The growth of the Super PACs is just the most recent and disastrous result of a series of Supreme Court decisions that seek to distinguish between contributions to a candidate and direct expenditures that have the same effect. I have always been loath to amend the constitution, but this tragic line of reasoning by the Supreme Court has so threatened the health of our democracy that I am moved to introduce today’s amendment.”
The amendment provides simply:
“Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to forbid Congress or the states from imposing content-neutral limitations on private campaign contributions or independent political campaign expenditures. Nor shall this Constitution prevent Congress or the states from enacting systems of public campaign financing, including those designed to restrict the influence of private wealth by offsetting campaign spending or independent expenditures with increased public funding.”
Congressman Schiff is no stranger to campaign finance reform. Elected in 2000, after the most expensive race for the House in history at the time, he became a co-sponsor of the bipartisan McCain Feingold campaign finance reform law on his first day in Congress. Citizen’s United helped overturn critical parts of that and other campaign finance laws.
Lawrence H. Tribe is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School. Representative Schiff served as one of his research assistants while a student at the law school in the mid-1980s.