Senators Introduce Constitutional Amendment to Clean Up Campaign Finance System

U.S. Senators Tom Udall of New Mexico and Michael Bennet (D-CO) today introduced a constitutional amendment to grant Congress the authority to regulate the campaign finance system.  Among other important reforms, the amendment would allow Congress to correct the controversial Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance that has the effect of allowing virtually unlimited corporate and special interest spending in elections.  Joining Udall and Bennet as original cosponsors of the legislation are Sens. Tom Harkin, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, Sheldon Whitehouse and Jeff Merkley.

In 2010, the Supreme Court concluded in a highly contentious 5-4 ruling that corporations deserve the same free speech protections as individual Americans, enabling them to spend freely from their corporate treasuries on campaign advertising.

“As we head into another election year, we are about to see unprecedented amounts of money spent on efforts to influence the outcome of our elections.  With the Supreme Court striking down the sensible regulations Congress has passed, the only way to address the root cause of this problem is to give Congress clear authority to regulate the campaign finance system,” Udall said.

“The Supreme Court’s reversal of its own direction in the Citizens United decision and other recent cases has had a major effect on our election system,” Bennet said.  “State legislatures and Congress now may not be allowed to approve even small regulations to our campaign finance system. This proposal would bring some badly needed stability to an area of law that has been thrown off course by the new direction the Court has taken.”

“By limiting the influence of big money in politics, elections can be more about the voters and their voices, not big money donors and their deep pockets,” said Harkin.  “We need to have a campaign finance structure that limits the influence of the special interests and restores confidence in our democracy.  This amendment goes to the heart of that effort.”

“I am proud to stand with Sens. Udall and Bennet in advancing this constitutional amendment because it will enable Congress to enact common sense reforms that cannot be overturned by the Supreme Court. Congress and many state legislatures have already passed laws that would begin to reign in the influence of corporate and special interest money. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has recently seen fit to ignore its own precedent and overturn those laws. These decisions jeopardize core principles of our democracy and threaten to give corporations and special interests an outsized influence on our elections.” Durbin said.

“By equating campaign spending with free speech, the Supreme Court has essentially ruled that the wealthiest among us should have the loudest voices in our elections,” said Schumer. “The American public is fed up with the outsize influence that money has on our politics. This constitutional amendment will restore the balance to our system that the American people expect in a democracy. It is time to return our elections to the hands of everyday citizens rather than the special interests.”

“The flawed Citizens United decision allows corporations, including international corporations, to use their vast wealth to drown out the voices of the American people, and it allows them to do so anonymously from behind shell organizations,” said Whitehouse.  “We must ensure that government works for the American people, not powerful corporations.  The constitutional amendment we are introducing today will undo the Citizens United decision, putting people in charge as the Founders of our country intended.”

“It was President Lincoln who described the genius of American democracy as ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people’.  We office holders work for the people. They elect us. They are in charge.  Citizens United puts in motion the opposite:  it moves us towards government by and for the powerful.  As such, it is a dagger poised at the heart of American democracy,” said Merkley.  “If we are going to preserve a government responsive to its citizens, we need commonsense reforms that give the American people a full voice.  This Constitutional Amendment is essential for the people to be heard.”

The constitutional amendment would authorize Congress to regulate the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns, including independent expenditures, and allow states to regulate such spending at their level. It would also provide for implementation and enforcement of the amendment through legislation.

The proposed amendment:

  • Authorizes Congress to regulate and limit the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns and allow states to regulate such spending at their level;
  • Includes the authority to regulate and limit independent expenditures, such as those from Super PACs, made in support of or opposition to candidates;
  • Would not dictate any specific policies or regulations, but instead would allow Congress to pass campaign finance reform legislation that withstands constitutional challenges.

For the text of the proposed amendment visit,

New Mexico Land Commissioner Ray Powell Announces $4 Million in Earnings for New Mexico Taxpayers

Land Commissioner Ray Powell has announced that the New Mexico State Land Office earned almost $4 million for beneficiaries during its monthly oil and gas lease sale held Oct.18 in Santa Fe.

Twenty-eight tracts were offered for lease and 27 were sold for a total of $3,964,604. All tracts were located in Chaves, Eddy and Lea counties. The highest bid of $1,666,758 went to Yates Petroleum Corporation for 320 acres in Eddy County.

“Our New Mexico State Trust Lands provide significant financial support of our public schools, universities, and hospitals,” said State Land Commissioner Ray Powell. “In addition, this added revenue helps keep our taxpayers bills lower.”

The bonuses, or bids, earned from this month’s sale go directly to trust beneficiaries including public schools, hospitals and universities. The bid winners have earned the right to explore and develop oil and gas on their respective tracts for the next five years. The tracts must be active at the end of the lease or they revert back to the state. Leases offered by the State Land Office include 5-year development leases and 5-year discovery leases, which have different royalty rates. The lease sale results are posted on the State Land Office website at

The Oil, Gas and Minerals Division of the State Land Office manages non-renewable resources, evaluates commodity resources, administers the monthly oil and gas lease sales and leases. The division is responsible for leasing and managing about 9,175 active oil and gas leases and 188 active mineral leases, together covering 2.9 million acres of the 13-million-acre trust mineral estate. Since Commissioner Ray Powell took office in January 2011, more than $86 million has been generated through the Oil and Gas lease sales for the state trust.

Next month’s lease sale is scheduled for Nov. 15 in Santa Fe and will offer 29 tracts in Eddy, Roosevelt and Lea counties.

November 1: News Roundup

Hot on the heels of sexual harassment revelations, Herman Cain faces a new scandal involving tax and voter fraud, the New York Times reports.

New analysis conducted by the Associated Press finds that the jobs plans proposed by the Republican presidential candidates are unlikely to cure the nation’s economic and housing woes. Especially ineffective are tax cuts that only benefit the wealthy, who are painted by Republicans as being the most likely job creators. There’s more at the Associated Press.

The Republican assault on voting rights continues. GOP-controlled state legislatures in the south and elsewhere have passed new laws that decrease the early voting period from two weeks to one week and place new hurdles for college students who wish to register away from home. Additionally, voter registration organizations like the League of Women Voters in Florida have shut down registration drives in the face of possible fines for procedural errors. There’s more at the Los Angeles Times.

The British daily newspaper, the Guardian, takes aim at the Republican Party’s fraudulent claims of “voter fraud.” “Well, if you can’t win elections fairly…” the Guardian writes.

More details of allegations surrounding Herman Cain continue to surface, and it isn’t pretty, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Almost lost in the Cain scandals, news of Mitt Romney’s investment group Ponzi scheme surfaces, ThinkProgress reports.

Countering Republican attacks and bringing a little truth to the budget debates, a dozen Democratic Congressman launch the “food-stamp challenge,” to illustrate how hard it is to live in $31.50 per week, CNN reports.

Trouble in paradise: GOP guru Ed Rollins speaks out against his former employer, Michelle Bachmann, ABC reports.