By Malia Rulon Herman
Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Tom Udall of New Mexico teamed up Tuesday to introduce a pair of proposed constitutional amendments aimed at changing how elections are financed.
Tester, a Democrat, faced a surge of spending by outside groups in his reelection campaign last year against Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, which helped make campaign finance a personal issue for him.
"Myself as well as my opponent went through a lot of unnecessary advertising," Tester said, accusing special- interest groups of using "dark money" to fund much of that advertising.
His proposal would amend the Constitution to specify that corporations are not people, which would let Congress limit what corporations spend to influence elections.
The 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission allowed corporations, unions and issue advocacy organizations to spend unlimited amounts of money on ads supporting or opposing individual political candidates.
The decision allowed for the creation of super PACs that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money as long as they don't coordinate with the candidates they support.
Montana, which has a state law forbidding corporations from contributing to election campaigns, fought the ruling and lost. Montanans responded by voting overwhelming in November to direct the state's congressional delegation to take steps to amend the Constitution to limit corporate spending in elections.
Tester said his legislation would end the use of so-called "dark money."
"It's not good for the Republicans, it's not good for the Democrats, but most importantly, it's not good for democracy," Tester said.
Udall's amendment would overturn the 1976 Supreme Court ruling in Buckley vs. Valeo to give Congress the authority to regulate and limit the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns and to allow states to regulate campaign spending.
"If you don't know where the money is coming from, it completely corrupts democracy," Udall said. "So this is something that we have got to get a hold of."
Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana is not a co-sponsor of Tester's bill. He introduced his own constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling in 2010 and continues to push his plan. He said in a statement Tuesday he would support either bill.
"There's always more than one way to skin a cat, and the more bills out there we have to build support behind us the better," he said.
Proposed constitutional amendments must pass the House and Senate by a two-thirds majority and must be ratified by at least 38 states.