The debate over ‘big money in politics’ returned today to Frankfort. A house committee considered a resolution calling for constitutional limits on corporate donations to campaigns. The U-S Supreme Court says corporations have free speech rights and can make campaign contributions. In the 20-10 Citizens’ United decision, the high court ruled the First Amendment prohibits restrictions on independent political expenditures by corporations and labor unions. But, Representative Mary Lou Marzian says the chief justices should not have the final word.
“I think it’s not only public perception, but it also a reality that money will corrupt and I think that if the Citizens United is allowed to stand, we’re gonna see hundreds of millions, if not billions being spent to literally buy congressional offices, senate offices, even a presidency,” said Marzian.
A resolution proposed by the veteran Louisville lawmaker asks Congress to amend the U-S Constitution to allow reasonable limits on campaign contributions. She also wants to restrict contributions from foreign interests. The specific monetary limitation must still be decided.
“I think that will need to be decided by statute but I would really like to see contributions of like less than a hundred dollars and people really needing to get buy in on their candidacy,” said Marzian.
Her resolution survived a party-line vote in the Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee…over the objection of Danville Representative Mike Harmon.
“I think we would be better off to take all the shackles off and let anybody give as much as they want, but have full disclosure of that information,” added Harmon.
Northern Kentucky Representative Joe Fisher agrees limits on campaign contributions infringe on speech.
As to the question of big money’s impact on politics, Fisher says it’s relative…depending on who benefits.
“As Senator McConnell would say, we spend more on bubble gum in this country than we do on politics. It depends upon whether your determination of whether too much money is being spent on politics has to be compared on what is being spend on everything else,” said Fisher.
The House Resolution now goes on the house, where proponents hope for a floor vote.
Over in the Kentucky Senate, President Pro Tem Katie Stein agrees a political campaign’s finances should be open to public scrutiny, with the names of donors easily accessible. But, the Senate leader doubts she’ll see such a resolution making headway in the upper house.
"In the past, we’ve shied away from sending pronouncements to Congress, telling them to do this and that. It just hasn’t been our policy much to do that sort of thing except in extraordinary situations. In fact, off the top of my head, I can’t think of any instances where we’ve done it,” added Stein.
Among the proponents for limits is retired attorney George Shuman. He admits this cause has consumed much of his time over the last year or so. Despite opposition, the Attorney’s optimistic.
“I take this as kind of a long term thing that we will get a constitutional amendment come to the states for ratification. I would project that that’s not gonna be here in the next five years, but it will be here,” explained Shuman.
So far, Shuman says eleven states have passed similar resolutions.