Today, U.S. Representative John D. Dingell (D-MI15), joined by co-sponsors, John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI14), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY14), Robert Andrews (D-NJ01), Diana DeGette (D-CO01), Jim McGovern (D-MA03), Robert Brady (D-PA01), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD08), Keith Ellison (D-MN05), and Donna F. Edwards (D-MD04) introduced strong legislation to make workable reforms to election financing. The "Restoring Confidence in Our Democracy Act" prohibits corporations and unions from making independent expenditures and electioneering communications, and subjects Super Political Action Committees (PAC) to the same restrictions as regular PACs, such as a $5,000 contribution limit.
"Citizens United is one of the most destructive Supreme Court decisions in our nation's history," said Dingell. Even worse, the decision completely ignored the factual record and congressional intent when it overturned key provisions of McCain-Feingold. Since that time, we have seen an explosion in spending and the emergence of Super PACs, which allow billionaires to funnel unlimited amounts of money to influence our elections. This is fundamentally threatening our free elections and democratic system of government. My legislation establishes the factual record which details the negative effects of increased spending in our elections. Hopefully the court will heed the facts this time around."
"Citizens United is, apart from Bush v. gore, the most misguided Supreme Court decision of the modern era," Conyers said. "The free flow of secret money into campaigns directly undermines the public trust. I am proud to support the Dingell bill, which goes a long way towards restoring the integrity of our election system."
"The impact of the Citizens United decision has been clear: open floodgates of virtually unlimited cash-- from contributors who never have to be disclosed-- have financed massive ad buys to influence our elections," Maloney said. "Independent expenditures from corporate general-treasury funds should be illegal, and Superpacs should be subject to the same requirements as regular PACs. Our democracy should not be for sale to the highest bidder."
"The Citizen's United ruling is a corrosive cancer on our political system that undermines the democratic process by giving the most wealthy a disproportionate influence through unlimited spending, saidAndrews. "It is imperative that the Congress come together and pass reforms to ensure fairness is restored to our democratic system and I am proud to stand with Representative Dingell and my colleagues today to do just that."
"In my home state of Colorado, as the election gets closer, the devastating impact of the Citizens United decision is evident every time you turn on the TV," said Rep. Diana DeGette. "Millions and millions of dollars of unlimited cash has enabled the wealthiest and most powerful to flood our airwaves, unchecked, with any message it is in their interest to promote. I am proud to stand with my colleague John Dingell in support of this bill which will begin to level the playing field and start ensuring everyone must play by the same rules."
"We are already seeing the corrosive effects of Citizens United: an election system awash in a sea of millions of dollars in unregulated money, drowning out the voices of individual citizens, said McGovern. "Politicians are increasingly beholden to wealthy special interests. A multi-national oil company that doesn't like a particular member of Congress can now simply write a big, undisclosed check to "Americans for Apple Pie and Puppies' and watch the negative advertisements work their magic. I am proud to join with John Dingell to address this critical issue."
"The Supreme Court falsely claimed Citizens United would protect free speech," said Brady. "Instead, it gave billionaires and corporations a megaphone to drown out the voices of the average American and a veil of secrecy to hide behind. The longer we wait, the worse this problem will get."
"Since 2010, Super PACs and corporations have spent record amounts of money in elections nationwide," said Ellison. "Corporate spending soared during the 2010 election cycle to over $290 million, four times more than the previous mid-term elections in 2006. This is wouldn't have been possible without the Citizens United decision and it must end. A democracy should never be for sale."
The "Restoring Confidence in Our Democracy Act" has been endorsed by Common Cause and UAW.
Common Cause issued the following statement: "Common Cause applauds your introduction of the Restoring Confidence in Our Democracy Act. The Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC overturned a century of well-settled law and unleashed the floodgates to a torrent of secret, special interest money in our elections. Without citing any evidence or Congress's findings to the contrary, the Court ruled that "independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.' The American people know that the Court's factual error defies common sense."
The Public Campaign also offered the following statement: "Public Campaign commends Rep. Dingell for advancing the debate in Congress of how corporate and special interests are trying to buy elections. While additional disclosure of campaign spending is needed, Public Campaign also advocates for a small-donor driven matching fund system to empower citizens so that everyday people can have their voices heard in campaigns."
The Citizens United v. FEC ruling allows for unlimited corporate spending in our elections and discards decades of case law in the process. The ruling ignored the factual record regarding campaign finance reform and disregarded congressional intent. The "Restoring Confidence in Our Democracy Act" seeks to establish the factual record which the court cannot ignore through a series of findings. It also re-enacts the prohibition on corporations making electioneering communications to influence campaigns, clarifies that corporations and unions cannot make independent expenditures, and subjects Super PACs to the same restrictions as other PACs, including a $5,000 contribution limit.